Monday, December 15, 2014

How Corrupt Are Securities Markets?

How Corrupt Are Securities Markets? The High-Yield Debt Market & Private Equity (1988)

Private equity in the 1980s relates to one of the major periods in the history of private equity and venture capital. Within the broader private equity industry, two distinct sub-industries, leveraged buyouts and venture capital experienced growth along parallel although interrelated tracks.

The development of the private equity and venture capital asset classes has occurred through a series of boom and bust cycles since the middle of the 20th century. The 1980s saw the first major boom and bust cycle in private equity. The cycle which is typically marked by the 1982 acquisition of Gibson Greetings and ending just over a decade later was characterized by a dramatic surge in leveraged buyout (LBO) activity financed by junk bonds. The period culminated in the massive buyout of RJR Nabisco before the near collapse of the leveraged buyout industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s marked by the collapse of Drexel Burnham Lambert and the high-yield debt market.

Although the "corporate raider" moniker is rarely applied to contemporary private equity investors, there is no formal distinction between a "corporate raid" and other private equity investments acquisitions of existing businesses. The label was typically ascribed by constituencies within the acquired company or the media. However, a corporate raid would typically feature a leveraged buyout that would involve a hostile takeover of the company, perceived asset stripping, major layoffs or other significant corporate restructuring activities. Management of many large publicly traded corporations reacted negatively to the threat of potential hostile takeover or corporate raid and pursued drastic defensive measures including poison pills, golden parachutes and increasing debt levels on the company's balance sheet. Additionally, the threat of the corporate raid would lead to the practice of "greenmail", where a corporate raider or other party would acquire a significant stake in the stock of a company and receive an incentive payment (effectively a bribe) from the company in order to avoid pursuing a hostile takeover of the company. Greenmail represented a transfer payment from a company's existing shareholders to a third party investor and provided no value to existing shareholders but did benefit existing managers. The practice of "greenmail" is not typically considered a tactic of private equity investors and is not condoned by market participants.

Among the most notable corporate raiders of the 1980s included Carl Icahn, Victor Posner, Nelson Peltz, Robert M. Bass, T. Boone Pickens, Harold Clark Simmons, Kirk Kerkorian, Sir James Goldsmith, Saul Steinberg and Asher Edelman. Carl Icahn developed a reputation as a ruthless corporate raider after his hostile takeover of TWA in 1985.[28] The result of that takeover was Icahn systematically selling TWA's assets to repay the debt he used to purchase the company, which was described as asset stripping.[29] In later years, many of the corporate raiders would be re-characterized as "Activist shareholders".

Many of the corporate raiders were onetime clients of Michael Milken, whose investment banking firm, Drexel Burnham Lambert helped raise blind pools of capital with which corporate raiders could make a legitimate attempt to takeover a company and provided high-yield debt financing of the buyouts.

Drexel Burnham raised a $100 million blind pool in 1984 for Nelson Peltz and his holding company Triangle Industries (later Triarc) to give credibility for takeovers, representing the first major blind pool raised for this purpose. Two years later, in 1986, Wickes Companies, a holding company run by Sanford Sigoloff would raise a $1.2 billion blind pool.[30]

In 1985, Milken raised a $750 million for a similar blind pool for Ronald Perelman which would ultimate prove instrumental in acquiring his biggest target: The Revlon Corporation. In 1980, Ronald Perelman, the son of a wealthy Philadelphia businessman, and future "corporate raider" having made several small but successful buyouts, acquired MacAndrews & Forbes, a distributor of licorice extract and chocolate, that Perelman's father had tried and failed to acquire it 10 years earlier.[31] Perelman would ultimately divest the company's core business and use MacAndrews & Forbes as a holding company investment vehicle for subsequent leveraged buyouts including Technicolor, Inc., Pantry Pride and Revlon.