Stewart Horejsi’s business was in a funk. It was 1980, and Brown Welding Supply LLC, his family’s third-generation distributor of hydrogen and oxygen tanks, was battling competitors that were intent on expanding into the corner of Kansas he controlled.
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.
How much should BP Plc pay in damages for the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe? The Gulf of Mexico could be as emulsified as vinaigrette by the end of summer. One model shows oil may have migrated up the East Coast by then. No one really knows how bad it will be, only that it keeps getting worse.