Nov 7, 2019

Billionaire Ken Fisher's surprising client list

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Public markets can feel simultaneously old-fashioned and incomprehensibly ultra-sophisticated when compared with the private-market world of pitches and storytelling.

The big picture: Inhuman algobots make billions trading on millisecond time horizons, while trillions of dollars are invested on the basis of archaic sales pitches.

Driving the news: The biggest surprise in the latest raft of headlines about sexist comments by 68-year-old billionaire fund manager Ken Fisher is the list of "smart money" institutions that invested hundreds of millions of dollars with him.

  • Before the latest scandal, Fisher managed some $11 billion on behalf of U.S. government pension plans, including $600 million of Michigan's state employees' money alone.
  • Fidelity Investments had $500 million with Fisher, and even Goldman Sachs gave him millions of dollars of its clients' money to manage.

Flashback: When we last checked in on Fisher in February, the old lion was roaring. He was managing $100 billion of other people's money, he was bringing in $1 billion a year, and defiantly refusing to be disrupted by glossy startups.

  • Reality check: Fisher almost certainly still has more than $100 billion under management, and still brings in more than $1 billion a year. As Fisher knows better than anybody, people generally massively overestimate the impact of short-term news on long-term performance.

Why it matters: All fund managers invest in marketing. What distinguishes Fisher, and what made him so successful, was the amount of effort he put into direct sales. It wasn't always pleasant being on the receiving end of those sales pitches, but they clearly worked. Fisher managed to reel in not only befuddled retirees, but monster pension funds.

Go deeper: The rockstar allure of private money

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Hacker offers $100,000 for leaks of corporate secrets

Phineas Fisher, a pseudonymous hacktivist famous for leaks from high-profile companies, is offering $100,000 for other hackers to steal and leak controversial corporate documents, Motherboard reports.

Why it matters: Hacktivism — hacking for some perceived public benefit — trailed off in recent years as more hackers chose to monetize their skill sets through thievery and ransom schemes. This offer could reincentivize civic-minded computer crime.

Go deeperArrowNov 18, 2019

House panel seeks investigation into $400 million border wall contract

Security forces near the US-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico on Sept. 18, 2019. Photo: Guillermo Arias/AFP via Getty Images

The House Homeland Security Committee requested on Wednesday that the Defense Department inspector general investigate a $400 million contract recently awarded to Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. for constructing a portion of President Trump's border wall.

The big picture: Fisher was not on the Army Corps of Engineers' original list of qualified bidders to build 31 miles of border wall near Yuma, Arizona, per the Washington Post. But Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) cites another report from the Post that alleges Trump has repeatedly urged the Army Corp. to award the contract to Fisher, which is owned by a GOP donor who has made several appearances on Fox News to promote his company.

Go deeperArrowDec 4, 2019

Gap CEO Art Peck to step down after 15 years with the company

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Image

Gap Inc. chief executive Art Peck announced plans to resign after 15 years with the retailer, the company shared on Thursday.

What we know: Peck, who served as CEO since 2015, will turn over his role to board member Robert Fisher, who will serve as president and chief executive on an interim basis. The company did not explain the reasoning for Peck's departure. The shift comes after a multiple quarters of low sales, largely brought on by declining foot traffic and excess inventory, Business Insider notes.

Go deeperArrowNov 8, 2019