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Paul Singer, Doomsday Investor
August 27, 2018 | The New Yorker | By Sheelah Kolhatkar.

Paul Singer, ,
The head of hedge fund Elliott Management, has developed a uniquely adversarial, and immensely profitable, way of doing business.

Bush had co-founded Athenahealth, a platform that digitizes patient medical records and billing claims for hospitals and health-care providers, in 1999, and he had built it into an enterprise with more than a billion dollars in revenue. One of the firm’s marketing taglines was that it freed doctors and nurses to spend more time doing what they loved—practicing medicine—and less time on paperwork. Athena served more than a hundred thousand health-care providers...... Paul Singer, the founder of Elliott Management and one of the most powerful, and most unyielding, investors in the world. Singer, who is seventy-three, with a trim white beard and oval spectacles, is deeply involved in everything Elliott does. The firm has many kinds of investments, but Singer is best known as an “activist” investor, using his fund’s resources—about thirty-five billion dollars—to buy stock in companies in which it detects weaknesses. Elliott then pressures the company to make changes to its business, with the goal of improving the stock price.....Hedge funds, especially activist hedge funds, are established users of private-investigation services.....The investor acknowledged that Bush was far from perfect, and said that “there is a role for activists to hold managements accountable.” But the investor worried that the focus on the bottom line would undermine the innovative spirit that had made Athena successful. “.....The idea that companies exist solely to serve the interests of shareholders—rather than also to serve workers, customers, and the larger community—has been dominant in the business world in the past thirty years. As the field of activist investing becomes increasingly crowded, many investors are going beyond their original mission of finding ailing or mismanaged companies and pushing them to improve. Instead, some have been targeting larger, financially prosperous companies, such as Procter & Gamble, Apple, and PepsiCo. ......Often, activists advocate for measures that drive up the stock price but can have negative effects in the future, such as the outsourcing of jobs, the elimination of research and development, and the borrowing of money to buy back a company’s own stock. The wisdom of these tactics has come under increasing scrutiny. Some of the most successful businesses to emerge in recent decades have staved off short-term pressures, forcing their investors to be patient with uncertainty and experimentation. The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, wrote in an early investor letter that building something new “requires you to experiment patiently, accept failures, plant seeds, protect saplings.” ........Over time, this lack of long-term vision alters the economy—with profound political implications. Businesses are the engine of a country’s employment and wealth creation; when they cater only to stockholders, expenditures on employees’ behalf, whether for raises, job training, or new facilities, come to be seen as a poor use of funds. Eventually, this can result in fewer secure jobs, widening inequality, and political polarization. ..........Bush spoke about his last day in the office, when he had sobbed during his final address to Athena’s employees. He had also written a farewell letter. “I believe that working for something larger than yourself is the greatest thing a human can do. A family, a cause, a company, a country—these things give shape and purpose to an otherwise mechanical and brief human existence,” the letter read. “The downside about things that are larger than ourselves, of course, is that we who have the privilege of serving them ourselves are fungible. It is the fundamental definition. You can’t have the grace of the one without the other......Throughout our conversations, Bush returned to a theme that consumed him. He talked about how investors like Singer—financiers who take the assets built by others and manipulate them like puzzle pieces to make money for themselves—are affecting the country on a grand scale. A healthy country, he said, needs economic biodiversity, with companies of different sizes chasing innovation, or embarking on long, hard projects, without being punished. The disproportionate power of the Wall Street investor class, Bush felt, dampened all that, and gradually made the economy, and most of the people in it, more fragile.
distressed_debt  Elliott_Management  financiers  hard_goals  hard_work  hedge_funds  investors  long-term  patience  Paul_Singer  profile  shareholder_activism  Sheelah_Kolhatkar  time_horizons  vulture_investing  Wall_Street 
august 2018 by jerryking
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