Turns out I wasn’t the first to make the private equity/conglomerate connection. Back in April, the anonymous author of the blog Going Private (subtitled “The Sardonic Memoirs of a Private Equity Professional”) complained that private equity firms and hedge funds were getting too big and unfocused:
Didn’t we learn in the 1980s that unfocused conglomerates don’t work particularly well? Why are we running down that road again, with hedge funds, with Google? Management fees, perhaps? We are long past the point where the management fee just barely pays the bills at a fund and you have to find upside to get wealthy. The incentives to bloat assets under management are simply too significant now, I think.
Update: Now I am told I was being not just unoriginal but trite.
Update 2: And now I have won Going Private’s first-ever Maxwell Smart Prize for Mediocrity in Financial Journalism, for “the financial journalist issuing the most sweeping generalizations, possessed of the weakest grasp of finance and most the deficient command of economics.” So put that in your pipe and smoke it.
My prize-winning sentence, from this post Monday, was:
It does nicely underscore the basic truth of the private equity business, which is that without public markets on which to buy and sell companies, it couldn’t exist.
Mr. Going Private failed to explain exactly what was so egregious about this statement. (Yes it’s a “sweeping generalization.” Kinda obvious, too. But it’s also true.) Nevertheless, I will update my resume immediately to include this prestigious new honor.
Update 3: The private equity = conglomerate meme makes its way to wsj.com’s Deal Journal, with full credit to me but not to Ms. Private. I’ll not stand for this!