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The New EBITDA: Emotions Before Interest Taxes and Depreciation by Tom Deans, Ph.D.
Sitting in the departure lounge at LAX, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between an investment banker and his younger associate. I learned two things. First (and most business travelers can relate), it is amazing how cavalier people are about discussing confidential details in public places. The second confirmed something I had been thinking about family businesses for some time.
The older of the two bankers was whining about how he thought the slam-dunk deal they had just presented was now probably never going to happen. On and on he grumbled about the time he had spent running the numbers, lining up partners and generally bringing the deal to a crescendo, only to have the business owner change his mind about selling.
The investment banker was completely perplexed about why the offer, the numbers, the multiples that looked so good weren’t enough to entice the owner to do the deal of a lifetime.
It took everything I had to stop myself from leaping into the conversation and selling him a copy of Every Family’s Business (it wouldn’t have been the first time). But I exercised extraordinary restraint and settled back and listened to him talk about the clever structure of the deal, the tax that could have been saved and the instant wealth the owner would have secured if only he had been smart enough to take the deal.
Emotions are Squishy – Not the Stuff of Deal-Makers in Suits
The funny thing about listening in on a conversation is that the longer you listen the harder it is enter the conversation. So I bit my tongue and instead simply wondered how many other business brokers, M&A professionals and investment bankers expend such effort trying to bring deals to fruition only to have sellers back out. I wondered how an entire industry of intermediaries could so badly underestimate the emotional connection that owners have to their businesses, and also fail to understand how these emotions can scupper so much good work and extraordinary planning and lead the owner to ultimately destroy the business’s value.
When really bright finance experts hear the word “emotions” you can so often see their eyes roll back and the calculators shut off. Yet students of the greatest financiers of all time – deal-makers like Warren Buffett – know that these people get deals done by running the numbers and then engaging business owners in the one corner of their life where most number crunchers don’t go – their family. It is the rare rainmaker who has both the left and right brain firing on all cylinders.
Buffett and other great deal-makers know that the sale of a business will typically result in a “liquidity event” that will leave owners with more wealth than they feel comfortable consuming. Most business owners accumulate wealth precisely by denying themselves consumption. Sellers will often kill deals, blaming a low bid price, but there’s almost always much more at play.
Reducing An Owner’s Life Work to a Number is Depressing
Most deal-makers underestimate the guilt and remorse sellers feel when they reduce their life’s work to a single number. It feels so crass and empty and hollow to imagine that decades of risk-taking, relationships and earned status in their community will end the day a check is cut and control is relinquished.
That’s why so many business owners don’t do their last deal. That’s why so many let their death be the event that triggers the transfer of controlling interest of their business to family – typically ill-prepared family members uninterested in continuing the business.
With universities, associations and institutes granting so many awards dedicated to perpetuating family businesses at any cost, it’s the duty of intermediaries to serve family business owners with a counterbalancing narrative that places the preservation of capital at the center of more intelligent estate plans.
Preserved capital from the sale of a family business – capital a former owner can then deploy for philanthropic endeavors and for funding the next generation’s own businesses – and not an operating business that’s well past its shelf life is what pays homage to the most enduring legacy: family and community.
Buffet is Both Psychotherapist and Financier
I really wanted to tell the two guys in the airport that Buffett’s best deals had come after he cemented his own family business succession plan. Buffett can easily look into the eyes of any family business owner and talk with authenticity. He can empathize with a business owner’s struggle and can explain why selling the business is the key to securing their greatest and most enduring legacy – their family and their philanthropy.
I didn’t have the guts to chime in and say, “Fellas, I’ve really been enjoying your conversation but there’s way more to doing deals than running the numbers.” Deals get done based on trust and respect earned by intermediaries paying homage to the things in a business that transcend money. Intermediaries who approach this emotional subject like one more thing to check off on their due diligence list will be outed before the coffee is poured. Business owners can feel the disingenuous long before they actually hear it.
For most owners, the sale of their business represents the end of their professional careers and a major overhaul of who they are and where they fit in. Anticipation of the disappearance of their status as business owner, employer and boss often means the sale never gets completed.
Intermediaries who can honor the risk-taking that has gone into creating a business and connect that risk to something more enduring, like family and philanthropy, will themselves be participating in something that transcends money. A guy like Buffett, who is still driving hard deals while giving away half the wealth earned from those deals, tells you precisely what motivates him and his family.
Wealth with purpose: scoff at this soft, simple idea, diminish its importance in closing deals, and you’ll be the one sitting in an airport lamenting the one that got away.
PS: Most people wearing earphones in airports are only pretending to be listening to music.
Warren Buffett on Giving Away His Money and the Gates Foundation
The following are signatories to the Giving Pledge as of April 2013: Bill Ackman and wife Karen Paul Allen John D. Arnold and wife Laura Manoj Bhargava Steve Bing Nicolas Berggruen Sara Blakely Arthur Blank Michael Bloomberg Richard Branson and wife Joan Eli Broad and wife Edythe Charles Bronfman Edgar M. Bronfman Warren Buffett Steve Case and wife Jean John Caudwell Leon G. Cooperman and wife Toby Joe Craft Joyce and Bill Cummings Ray Dalio and wife Barbara John Paul DeJoria John Doerr and wife Ann Doerr Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg Glenn Dubin and wife Eva Larry Ellison Chuck Feeney Andrew Forrest and wife Nicola Ted Forstmann Phillip Frost and wife Patricia Bill and Melinda Gates Dan Gilbert and wife Jennifer David Green and wife Barbara Jeff Greene and wife Mei Sze Harold Hamm and wife Sue Ann Reed Hastings and wife Patty Quillin Lyda Hill Barron Hilton Chris Hohn Jon Huntsman, Sr. and wife Karen Mo Ibrahim Carl Icahn Irwin M. Jacobs and wife Joan George Kaiser Vinod Khosla and wife Neeru Sidney Kimmel Richard Kinder and wife Nancy Kenneth Langone and wife Elaine H.F. Lenfest and wife Marguerite Peter B. Lewis Lorry I. Lokey George Lucas Duncan MacMillan and wife Nancy Alfred E. Mann Joe Mansueto and wife Rika Bernie Marcus and wife Billi Red McCombs and wife Charline Michael Milken and wife Lori George P. Mitchell Tom Monaghan Gordon Moore and wife Betty John Morgridge and wife Tashia Dustin Moskovitz and Cari Tuna Patrice Motsepe and wife Precious Elon Musk Jonathan M. Nelson Pierre Omidyar and wife Pam Bernard Osher and wife Barbro Ronald Perelman Jorge M. Perez and wife Darlene Peter George Peterson T. Boone Pickens Victor Pinchuk Hasso Plattner Vladimir Potanin Azim Premji Julian Robertson David Rockefeller Edward W. and Deedie Potter Rose David M. Rubenstein David Sainsbury John Sall and wife Ginger Henry Samueli and wife Susan Herb and Marion Sandler Vicki and Roger Sant Denny Sanford Lynn Schusterman Walter Scott, Jr. Thomas Secunda and wife Cindy Harold Simmons and wife Annette Jim and Marilyn Simons Jeff Skoll John A. Sobrato, wife Susan and son John Michael Sobrato Patrick Soon-Shiong and wife Michele B. Chan Ted and Vada Stanley Tom Steyer and wife Kat Taylor James E. Stowers and wife Virginia Vincent Tan Claire and Leonard Tow Ted Turner Albert Lee Ueltschi Dr. Romesh Wadhwani and wife Kathleen Sanford Weill and wife Joan Shelby White, widow of non-signatory Leon Levy Charles Zegar and wife Merryl Snow Mark Zuckerberg
Warren Buffett & Bill Gates on Measuring Performance, Wealth, Billionaires, Financial Crisis
Performance measurement is the process of collecting, analyzing and/or reporting information regarding the performance of an individual, group, organization, system or component. It can involve studying processes/strategies within organizations, or studying engineering processes/parameters/phenomena, to see whether output are in line with what was intended or should have been achieved.
Performance measurement has been defined by Neely as “the process of quantifying the efficiency and effectiveness of past actions”, while Moullin defines it as “the process of evaluating how well organisations are managed and the value they deliver for customers and other stakeholders”. Discussion on the relative merits of these definitions appeared in several articles in the newsletter of the Performance Management Association.
Wikipedia – Performance Measurement
The wealth effect is an economic term, referring to an increase (decrease) in spending that accompanies an increase (decrease) in perceived wealth.
The effect would cause changes in the amounts and distribution of consumer consumption caused by changes in consumer wealth. People should spend more when one of two things is true: when people actually are richer, objectively, or when people perceive themselves to be richer—for example, the assessed value of their home increases, or a stock they own goes up in price.
Demand for some goods (especially Inferior goods) typically decreases with increasing wealth. For example, consider consumption of cheap fast food versus steak. As someone becomes wealthier, their demand for cheap fast food is likely to decrease, and their demand for more expensive steak may increase.
Consumption may be tied to relative wealth. Particularly when supply is highly inelastic – or in the case of monopoly – one’s ability to purchase a good may be highly related to one’s relative wealth in the economy. Consider for example the cost of real estate in a city with high average wealth (for example New York or London), in comparison to a city with a low average wealth. Supply is fairly inelastic, so if a helicopter drop (or gold rush) were to suddenly create large amounts of wealth in the low wealth city, those who did not receive this new wealth would rapidly find themselves crowded out of such markets, and materially worse off in terms of their ability to consume/purchase real estate (despite having participated in a weak Pareto improvement). In such situations, one cannot dismiss the relative effect of wealth on demand and supply, and cannot assume that these are static. (see also General equilibrium).
However, according to David Backus, an NYU economist, the wealth effect is not observable in economic data, at least in regards to increases or decreases in home or stock equity. For example, while the stock market boom in the late 1990s (q.v. dot-com bubble) increased the wealth of Americans, it did not produce a significant change in consumption, and after the crash, consumption did not decrease.
Economist Dean Baker disagrees and says that “housing wealth effect” is well-known and is a standard part of economic theory and modeling, and that economists expect households to consume based on their wealth. He cites approvingly research done by Carroll and Zhou that estimates that households increase their annual consumption by 6 cents for every additional dollar of home equity.
The wealth effect and the Paradox of Thrift are contradictory. The paradox assumes, incorrectly, that people will spend when they feel wealthy, based on the wealth effect, but not when they are actually more wealthy.
Wikipedia – The Wealth Effect
Buffett Grandson: Our Plans to Change the World
Sept. 17, 2013 (Bloomberg) — Howard W. Buffett, executive director of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, talks about his public management class at Columbia University and new book “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World.” Buffett is the son of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Director Howard Buffett and grandson of Chairman Warren Buffett. He speaks with Betty Liu on Bloomberg Television’s “In the Loop.” (Source: Bloomberg)
Three Generations of Buffett: We’re the Lucky Ones
Oct. 23, 2013 (Bloomberg) — Together on set for a Bloomberg First, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Warren Buffett, his son Howard Buffett and grandson Howard W. Buffett join Bloomberg’s Betty Liu to discuss philanthropy, their plans for Berkshire Hathaway, and their new book “40 Chances.” They speak on Bloomberg Television’s “In The Loop.”
Jorge Paulo Lemann: Meet the Burger, Beer Brazillionaire – Finance Expert
Aug. 29, 2013 (Bloomberg) — Bloomberg’s Alexander Cuadros examines the wealth Brazilian billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann, the former professional tennis player who built his fortune on some very well-known American brands. He speaks on Bloomberg Television’s “In The Loop.”
Billionaires Dumping Stock + Running From Wall St.
Billionaires are jumping ship from Wall St., with Warren Buffet and George Soros among the notable 1% dumping their stocks in an effort to avoid a feared market crash. We look at analysis of the moves by the power hitters and how too big to fail banks look set to take another hit in this Buzzsaw news clip with Tyrel Ventura and Tabetha Wallace.
As of July 5th, 2013, the Richest man in the world is Bill Gates at $71.3 Billion. The second richest is Carlos Slim at $66.3 Billion, followed by Warren Buffett at $61.4 Billion.
However, if we were to reunite the Walton family wealth, of Walmart fame, we would find the following: Christy Walton, $36.9 Billion; Jim Walton, $35.4 Billion; Rob Walton, $34.5 Billion; Alice Walton, $33.9 Billion, for a total of $140.7 Billion. We can see that Sam Walton created quite the family dynasty when the 9 to 12 spots of the Top Billionaires in the world are directly related to his dream.
Investing in yourself – Warren Buffett