Ted Weschler’s first job after college was at chemical maker W.R. Grace & Co. In 2007, six years after the company filed for bankruptcy, his hedge fund held 15 percent of the shares. That’s when he called Joe Rice.
As a profit-making endeavor, managing other people’s money is hard to beat. The business requires very little invested capital. There are no worries about getting paid in full when the bill comes due, since fund managers control their customers’ money. And lackluster performance is no bar to hefty profits because fees, based on the dollar value of assets under management, are paid even when returns are abysmal.
The last few years have been a struggle for investors in Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Since the March 2009 market low, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has risen 80 percent compared with 44 percent for Berkshire, even though crashing stock prices and unprecedented volatility perfectly suited Warren Buffett’s investing style.
Last month, the news broke that David Sokol , who was Warren Buffett ’s presumed heir apparent at Berkshire Hathaway Inc., made $3 million from Lubrizol Corp. stock purchases while he was pushing Buffett to buy the company.
Once perceived as a fortress built on low leverage and strong cash flows, BP Plc seems to have managed its balance sheet much the way it ran exploration projects -- dangerously. Projections the company is feeding investors about how much cash it will have to pay claims are finally getting the skepticism they deserve.
Sometimes the cutesiness of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is part of its endearing charm. Sometimes it is a minor quirk to be brushed aside. Occasionally, it can mislead, as happened this week when Warren Buffett’s favorite scribe, Carol J. Loomis of Fortune magazine, began her insider’s report on the hiring of 50-year-old Ted Weschler, the founder of Peninsula Capital Advisors LLC, as a Berkshire investment manager. She wrote: “It is surely unprecedented for a person to spend $5,252,722 to get a job, but in a funny way, that is precisely what Ted Weschler, of Charlottesville, Virginia, did.”