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Singapore Startup: This HR Tech Firm Worth $100 Million Is Ready To Conquer Asia

In the dizzying world of technology startups, it’s easy to get lost in the hype of hot trends such as AI, blockchain, VR/AR and machine learning. What is often forgotten is the fact that some of the best startups in the world solve the simplest of problems.

This is exactly the approach that Pascal Henry, who is the CEO and cofounder of HReasily, took when he identified the fundamental needs of rapidly growing SMEs–to manage their human resources more efficiently.

Henry launched his Singapore-based HR firm in late 2015 as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business that enables companies to increase productivity by using technology to streamline traditional processes such as payroll processing, leave management and expense claims.

When I was running my first startup in Singapore, I had to do a lot of the manual processes myself. I felt the pain and the drain of it,” explains Henry. “It was taking up a lot of my time and energy, when I should have been focusing on building my business.”

Today In: Asia

 

Improving productivity and efficiency

HReasily’s mission is simple: To innovate and automate HR throughout the world. As one of the fastest-growing cloud-based HR SaaS companies in the region, their simple modules and features aim to transform many of the legacy HR processes and automate them to be accessible anytime and anywhere. Currently the company offers seven modules including payroll, staff leave, employee contracts and attendance. As HReasily grows, it continues to add product lines aimed at empowering companies to scale faster.

Previously, many businesses used solutions that each looked after a particular silo of an HR department. So you’d have one system to manage your payroll calculations, one for leave and others for other functions.

“What happened was you had to log in and out of many various systems, and these systems cost a huge amount of money,” says Henry. “What we’ve done is build a solution that is very affordable that integrates with all the functions on a unified platform.”

A simple but elegant business model HReasily runs a subscription-based revenue model. Starting with payroll, which is at the core of every traditional HR office, the company offers premium versions that run on monthly or yearly subscriptions, with add-on modules available such as staff leave and time attendance. This past summer at the RISE 2019 conference in Hong Kong, Henry and his team unveiled their latest benefits management module which will soon allow customers to acquire group level insurance, healthcare and even apply for credit cards or loans.

HReasily says its competitive advantage lies in its customer base, which is mostly SMEs. By initially focusing on the fundamental needs of this particular segment, the company has earned the support of larger banking and government agencies and has become known as an “SME champion.” Not surprisingly, as the company has grown it says that it began to attract larger corporations, publicly listed companies, multinational corporations and even payroll outsourcing firms.

“As we grew we acquired a more diverse customer base,” Henry says, “because a lot of larger companies are tired of the older and expensive solutions because they need to be installed on premise and they require a refresher every year when rules and regulations change.”

Partnerships are the key to rapid growth

Being based in Singapore has allowed HReasily to capitalize on the rapid growth in Southeast Asia. SME’s account for 97% of all the enterprises in the region, and employ half of the workforce, according to data from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). HReasily’s growth has been nothing short of impressive. With nearly 30,000 companies on their platform and more than 100 new companies onboarding every day, HReasily is said to be growing rapidly in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Some of HReasily’s notable customers include Love Bonito (in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong), Sambat Finance (Cambodia), OnlinePajak (Indonesia) and TechInAsia. As the company looks to complete their coverage of Asia, the next major market they look to tackle is mainland China followed by Taiwan, Japan, Myanmar and Australia.

Investors have taken notice of the company’s growth as well. Fresh off a pre-series A funding round of $5 million from Envy Capital, HReasily is currently estimated to be valued at more than $100 million. Henry admits that the company’s rapid growth in the region has only been possible with the early support from their key strategic partners.

HReasily has been working with Citibank, Mazars and Stripe. The partnership with Mazars, which was a lead investor from the startup’s first round of funding, gives them access to a global audit, advisory and payroll outsourcing firm with 300 offices in 100 countries. Henry says it allows HReasily to localize its solutions to each individual market.

Today, building a solid ecosystem of strategic partners is very important because you come from different angles, but you all serve one customer, which is the SME or the business,” says Henry. “By coming together, we collectively create a great end-to-end experience for them. There’s strength in numbers.”

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Jay Kim is a full-time investor and the host of the popular podcast The Jay Kim Show, Hong Kong’s first dedicated podcast on entrepreneurship and investing in Asia. Inc. Magazine has named The Jay Kim Show one of the top three podcasts from Asia which are inspirational and useful to entrepreneurs. Jay is an avid supporter of the start-up ecosystem in Asia and frequently consults with leaders in local government on topics related to technology, entrepreneurship, early-stage investing and startups

Source: Singapore Startup: This HR Tech Firm Worth $100 Million Is Ready To Conquer Asia

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Is your administration work taking too much out of your time? HReasily provides HR solutions for payroll processing, leave and claims management, employee scheduling and time attendance, so that business owners can focus on growing their businesses.

 

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Meet Wall Street’s Best Dealmaker: New Billionaire Orlando Bravo

Orlando Bravo discovered his edge early. In 1985, at age 15, he traveled from his home in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, a small town on the island’s western coast, to Bradenton, Florida, to enroll in the legendary tennis guru Nick Bollettieri’s grueling academy.

Bravo would wake at dawn, head to class at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, then return to Bollettieri’s tennis courts at noon. He spent hours warring against peers like Andre Agassi and Jim Courier under the broiling sun. At sundown, after an hour to shower and eat, he would study, then retire to a sweaty, two-bedroom condominium in which players bunked four to a room like army barracks. Then he would do it all over again, six days a week, for a full year. “It was the tennis version of Lord of the Flies,” says his former roommate Courier.

The brutally competitive environment helped Bravo climb to a top-40 ranking in the U.S. as a junior. Then he peaked. “It was quite humbling,” recalls Bravo, who’s still fit from his weekly tennis games. “It was a different level of hard work altogether. It became clear I could operate at these super-high levels of pain.”

That grit and perseverance eventually propelled him to the top echelons of the private equity world. Few outside of finance have heard of the 49-year-old Bravo, but he is the driving force behind Wall Street’s hottest firm, the $39 billion (assets) Thoma Bravo.

In February, the French business school HEC Paris, in conjunction with Dow Jones, named Thoma Bravo the best-performing buyout investor in the world after studying 898 funds raised between 2005 and 2014. According to public data analyzed by Forbes, its funds returned 30% net annually, far better than famous buyout firms like KKR, Blackstone and Apollo Global Management. That’s even better than the returns from the software buyout firm Vista Equity Partners, its closest rival, run by Robert F. Smith, the African American billionaire who recently made headlines by paying off the college debt of Morehouse College’s entire graduating class. Since the beginning of 2015, Bravo has sold or listed 25 investments worth a total of $20 billion, four times their cost. His secret? He invests only in well-established software companies, especially those with clearly discernible moats.

“The economics of software were just so powerful. It was like no other industry I had ever researched,” says Bravo, seated in his office in San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid. He wears a tailored purple dress shirt and enunciates his words with a slight Puerto Rican accent. “It was just very obvious.”

Bravo’s firm has done 230 software deals worth over $68 billion since 2003 and presently oversees a portfolio of 38 software companies that generate some $12 billion in annual revenue and employ 40,000 people. Forbes estimates the value of the firm, which is owned entirely by Bravo and a handful of his partners, at $7 billion. Based on his stake in the firm and his cash in its funds, Bravo has a $3 billion fortune. Not only does that make him the first Puerto Rican-born billionaire, it’s enough for Bravo to debut at 287th place on this year’s Forbes 400 ranking of the richest Americans.

Like a good tennis player who’s worked relentlessly on his ground strokes, Bravo has made private equity investing look simple. There are no complicated tricks. He figured out nearly two decades ago that software and private equity were an incredible combination. Since then, Bravo has never invested elsewhere, instead honing his strategy and technique deal after deal. He hunts for companies with novel software products, like Veracode, a Burlington, Massachusetts-based maker of security features for coders, or Pleasanton, California-based Ellie Mae, the default system among online mortgage lenders, which the firm picked up for $3.7 billion in April. His investments typically have at least $150 million in sales from repeat customers and are in markets that are too specialized to draw the interest of giants like Microsoft and Google. Bravo looks to triple their size with better operations, and by the time he strikes, he’s already mapped out an acquisition or turnaround strategy.

The pool of potential deals is growing. On public markets, there are now more than 75 subscription software companies, worth nearly $1 trillion, that Bravo can target, versus fewer than 20, worth less than $100 billion, a decade ago. Investors around the world clamor to get into his firm’s funds, and lenders have checkbooks ready to finance his next big deal. “The opportunities today are the biggest I’ve ever seen,” Bravo says. “Right now we are in a huge, exploding and changing industry.”

Orlando Bravo’s isn’t a rags-to-riches story. He was born into a privileged life in Puerto Rico in the Spanish colonial city of Mayagüez, which for decades was the port for tuna fishing vessels supplying the local Starkist, Neptune and Bumble Bee canneries.

Starting in 1945, his grandfather Orlando Bravo, and later his father, Orlando Bravo Sr., ran Bravo Shipping, which acted as an agent for the massive tuna-fishing factory ships entering the port in Mayagüez. It was a lucrative business. His parents moved him and his younger brother Alejandro to what’s now a gated community in the hills of Mayagüez, where the brothers attended private schools and tooled about on the family’s 16-foot motorboat.

After taking up tennis at age 8, practicing on the courts of a local university and a Hilton hotel, Bravo and his family began making the two-and-a-half-hour drive from their home to San Juan on weekends to allow him to train against better competition. “What I loved about tennis was the opportunity,” he recalls. “I’m from Mayagüez, and I’m going to come to the big city and I’m going to make it,” he says. “Let’s go! The underdog!”

He quickly became one of Puerto Rico’s top players, which landed him at Bollettieri’s academy and then on Brown University’s tennis team. “I was so scared I wouldn’t make it through,” Bravo says of the Ivy League, so he took most classes pass/fail as a college freshman. But he quickly found his footing and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1992 with degrees in economics and political science. That helped him get a prestigious job as an analyst in Morgan Stanley’s mergers and acquisitions department. There he paid his dues, clocking 100-hour weeks under the renowned dealmaker Joseph Perella.

“I learned I didn’t want to invest in risky things ever again. It was too painful.”

Bravo’s Spanish fluency put him in front of clients as other analysts slaved away in data rooms. Working on Venezuelan billionaire Gustavo Cisneros’ 1993 acquisition of Puerto Rican supermarket chain Pueblo Xtra International opened his eyes to the world of buyouts. But mostly he says he learned he didn’t want to be a banker.

Bravo eventually headed west to Stanford University. He’d already been accepted into its law school, but he also wanted to attend the business school. He called insistently and eventually got accepted to pursue both. He worked during a summer at Seaver Kent, a Menlo Park, California-based joint venture with David Bonderman’s Texas Pacific Group that specialized in middle market deals. Upon graduation in 1998, Bravo wasn’t offered a position there or at TPG, and he spent months cold-calling for a job. After about a hundred calls, Bravo’s résumé caught the eye of Carl Thoma, a founding partner of the Chicago-based private equity firm Golder, Thoma, Cressey, Rauner (now known as GTCR), and they hit it off. “The biggest mistake Texas Pacific made was…that they didn’t make him a job offer,” says Thoma, 71, who Forbes estimates is also a billionaire based on an analysis of public filings.

One of the pioneers of the private equity industry in the 1970s, Thoma is a tall and mild-mannered Oklahoman whose parents were ranchers. Thoma and his partners practiced a friendlier version of the buyouts popularized by Michael Milken, preferring to buy small businesses and expand them using acquisitions. When Bravo came aboard in 1998, Thoma and partner Bryan Cressey had just split from Stanley Golder and Bruce Rauner, who later went on to become governor of Illinois, creating Thoma Cressey. Thoma sent Bravo to San Francisco to hunt for investments and eventually expand the firm’s Bay Area presence.

Bravo’s first few deals, struck before he turned 30, were disasters. He backed two website design startups, NerveWire and Eclipse Networks, just as the dot-com bubble popped. The two lost most of the $100 million Bravo invested. “I learned I didn’t want to invest in risky things ever again,” Bravo says. “It was too painful to live through.” Thoma Cressey was also struggling elsewhere, with underperforming investments in oil and gas and telecommunications. It was among the worst performers in the private equity industry at the time.

“Every time we picked up our heads to peek at a deal that wasn’t software, the software deal looked a lot better to us.”

But the failure led to an epiphany that soon made Bravo and his partners billions. He realized his mistake was in backing startup entrepreneurs, an inherently risky move, when for the same money he could buy established companies selling niche software to loyal customers. With Thoma’s blessing, Bravo pivoted and became an expert on these arcane firms. Coming out of the dot-com bust, the market was littered with foundering companies that had gone public during the bubble and had few interested buyers. Bravo got to work. His first big move, in 2002, was to buy Prophet 21, a Yardley, Pennsylvania-based software provider to distributors in the healthcare and manufacturing sectors that was trading at a mere one times sales.

Rather than clean house, Bravo kept the company’s CEO, Chuck Boyle, and worked beside him to boost profits, mainly by rolling up competitors. When Boyle wanted to buy a company called Faspac, Bravo flew to San Diego to work out of the Faspac owner’s garage for five days, analyzing reams of contracts to see if the deal would work. “Orlando would help not only at the highest level with strategy but also when we got grunt work done,” Boyle recalls. After seven acquisitions, Bravo sold the business for $215 million, making five times his money.

Software quickly became Bravo’s sole focus, and Thoma Cressey began to thrive. By 2005, Bravo and Thoma had recruited three employees, Scott Crabill, Holden Spaht and Seth Boro, to focus on software applications, cybersecurity and Web infrastructure. All remain with the firm today as managing partners.

Bravo’s big opportunity came during the financial crisis when Thoma put Bravo’s name on the door and split with his partner Bryan Cressey, a healthcare investor, creating Thoma Bravo. From that moment on, the firm invested only in software, with Bravo leading the way.

A string of billion-dollar buyouts followed—Sunnyvale, California-based network security firm Blue Coat, financial software outfit Digital Insight of Westlake Village, California, and Herndon, Virginia’s Deltek, which sells project management software—all of which more than doubled in value under Bravo’s watch. The firm’s inaugural 2009 software-only fund posted a 44% net annualized return by the time its investments were sold, making investors four times their money and proving the wisdom of discipline and specialization. “Every time we picked up our heads to peek at a deal that wasn’t software, the software deal looked a lot better to us,” he brags.

It’s late May, and Orlando Bravo’s 20th-floor offices overlooking the San Francisco Bay are filled with dozens of tech executives from its portfolio companies. Folks from Houston’s Quorum Software, which makes technology systems for oil and gas companies, mingle with cybersecurity experts from Redwood Shores, California’s Imperva. They juggle their rollerboard suitcases and thick financial books as Thoma Bravo partners map out corporate strategies on dry-erase whiteboards. Those on break hammer away at keyboards in small workrooms or demolish chicken sandwiches in a no-frills kitchenette.

This is one of Thoma Bravo’s monthly boot camps for new acquisitions, grueling daylong sessions that are critical to its success. Partners regularly buzz into Bravo’s spartan glass-walled offices, while in the background the drilling and hammering of construction workers making room for 13 new associates disturbs the peace.

With a fresh $12.6 billion war chest, Bravo is now eyeing $10 billion-plus deals and expects to begin buying entire divisions of tech giants.

After two decades studying software, Bravo recognizes clear patterns. For instance, when a company pioneers a product, its sales explode and then inevitably slow as competitors emerge. Often a CEO will use this cue to stray into new markets or overspend to gin up sales. Bravo calls this “chasing too many rabbits.” To fix it, he and his ten partners work alongside 22 current and former software executives who serve as consultants. They begin tracking the profit-and-loss statements for each product line and pore over contracts in search of bad deals or underpriced products. Critically, by the time a Thoma Bravo acquisition check clears, existing management has agreed that this rigorous approach will help. Bravo calls it “making peace with the past.”

There are also layoffs. Those can total as much as 10% of the workforce, for which Bravo doesn’t apologize. “In order to realign the business and set it up for big-time growth, you first need to take a step back before you take a step forward. It’s like boxing,” he says. “These are unbelievable assets with great innovators, and they are usually undermanaged.”

Mark Bishof, the former CEO of Flexera Software, an application management company outside of Chicago that Bravo bought in 2008 for $200 million and sold for a nearly $1 billion profit three years later, has a succinct description for this wild success. “He just kind of cuts all of the bullsh*t,” Bishof says. “It’s refreshing.” Flexera’s profits rose 70% during Bravo’s ownership, largely thanks to four major acquisitions. “Orlando’s like the general in the foxhole with his sergeant. You know he’s knee-deep in there with you,” Bishof gushes.

Under Thoma Bravo’s watch, companies on average saw cash flow surge as margins hit 35%, as of 2018, nearly triple those of the average public software company at that time. “It’s like training for the Olympics. . . . You have a finite goal to make it [in year four], and you make it very, very clear,” Bravo says. Today’s roaring market adds potency to the playbook. Lenders are now gorging on software debt, and stock market multiples for these businesses are surging.

“I learned more about building an efficient software company over the last four and a half years than in the first 30 years of my career.”

A recent example is Detroit’s Compuware, a decades-old pioneer of software applications to manage mainframe computer systems. In 2013, this Nasdaq-listed giant was all but left for dead and up for sale. There was minimal interest, other than from Bravo and partner Seth Boro, who were keen on Dynatrace, software that helped companies move databases to the cloud, which Compuware had acquired in 2011. Thoma Bravo used $675 million in cash and raised $1.8 billion in debt to buy Compuware and then split off Dynatrace as a separate company. The pair began to move Dynatrace from selling database licenses, once the bulk of its business, to cloud subscription services, now 70% of sales. This past August, Dynatrace went public, and Thoma Bravo’s 70% stake is now worth over $4 billion, with the remainder of Compuware worth nearly a billion more. “I learned more about building an efficient software company over the last four and a half years than in the first 30 years of my career,” says Dynatrace CEO John Van Siclen.

With a fresh $12.6 billion war chest for its 13th fund raised in 2018, Bravo is eyeing $10 billion-plus deals and expects to begin buying entire divisions from today’s technology giants. But thanks in part to the success of his firm, he now faces more competition. Heavyweights like Blackstone and KKR are increasingly sussing out software deals, not to mention his longtime rival Vista Equity. And he’s not immune to mistakes. Bravo’s $3.6 billion 2015 acquisition of San Francisco-based digital network tracker Riverbed Technology is currently struggling because of slowing sales and too much debt. He isn’t worried. “There are bigger and better companies to fix than there were ten years ago,” Bravo says.

His biggest challenge these days is likely back home in Puerto Rico where it all began. Bravo announced in May that he is contributing $100 million to his Bravo Family Foundation that will be used to promote entrepreneurship and economic development on the island.

This new foundation was birthed by Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island two years ago. Bravo was in Japan raising cash for yet another massive fund and frantically calling San Juan trying to locate his parents, who were living in the capital. They were fine, but the island wasn’t.

Five days later, he flew his Gulfstream jet with 1,000 pounds of supplies—water, granola bars, meal kits, satellite telephones, diapers, intravenous tubes and hydration pills—to Aguadilla, near Mayagüez. When an airport worker opened the door of his plane, Bravo says, the look of fear on his face was unforgettable. “All you could say was ‘I’m sorry for what happened to you.’ ”

He returned two weeks later in a larger plane with 7,000 pounds of supplies. Then he came in a massive DC-10 cargo plane before ultimately chartering two container ships carrying 600,000 pounds. “It was just like cold-calling for deals,” Bravo says of rounding up all the donations. He personally put in $3 million in just the first 30 days, and committed $10 million altogether.

When the Federal Emergency Management Agency became fully operative there, the island’s richest native turned his attention to Puerto Rico’s future. Though 44% of Puerto Ricans live below the poverty line, Bravo believes in the potential to foster entrepreneurship, citing that a tenth of the population has tried to build a business.

Armed with his money, his foundation is looking to back Puerto Rican technology entrepreneurs, even ferrying them to Thoma Bravo’s offices for training. Bravo admits to being tired of the debate over Puerto Rico’s statehood and holds his tongue when asked about President Trump’s performance during Maria. “My passion, which is the same as with companies, is to move beyond the strategic, long-term pontification, and into the operational and tactical moves that make you move forward today,” he says. “Economies go down, companies miss their numbers, trade stops, product issues happen and people quit. [The question is] do you have a creative approach to problem solving?” Bravo says. “Some people are stuck . . . and some people love putting the pieces together. I just feel like every operational problem can be solved. There’s always a solution.”

Recommended: Read Forbes’ Other Dealmaking Cover Stories

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How Billionaire Robert Smith Conquered Private Equity And Technology

Stephen Schwarzman And Blackstone: Wall Street’s Unstoppable Force

Brookfield’s Bruce Flatt: Billionaire Toll Collector Of the 21st Century

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I’m a staff writer at Forbes, where I cover finance and investing. My beat includes hedge funds, private equity, fintech, mutual funds, M&A and banks. I’m a graduate of Middlebury College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and I’ve worked at TheStreet and Businessweek. Before becoming a financial scribe, I was a part of the fateful 2008 analyst class at Lehman Brothers. Email thoughts and tips to agara@forbes.com. Follow me on Twitter at @antoinegara

Source: Meet Wall Street’s Best Dealmaker: New Billionaire Orlando Bravo

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Orlando Bravo, managing partner of Thoma Bravo and founder of the Bravo Family Foundation, https://www.bravofamilyfoundation.org/, announced he personally will contribute $100 million to his foundation to promote entrepreneurship and economic development in Puerto Rico, where Bravo was raised, and his family still lives.

23-Year-Old Sophia Hutchins, Jenner Family Insider, Raises Millions For Post-Makeup Sunscreen Mist

Sunscreen and makeup: a game of compromise, imperfection, skin damage and expensive products. 23-year-old Sophia Hutchins, who calls Caitlyn Jenner her “cheerleader,” aims to win that game with Lumasol, the FDA-approved odorless SPF 50+ sunscreen mist engineered to be applied after makeup. With a $3 million seed round from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund and Greycroft Ventures, she’ll be able to expand her team of 30 employees and bring the product to market in early 2020.

“It’s SPF millennialized,” says Hutchins, surrounded by her three-person media team and director of operations in the Jersey City, New Jersey Forbes office. “We are a health and tech company and [sun protection] is an extraordinarily unaddressed health issue that we’re trying to attack.”

Hutchins, who lives in LA, is a first-time founder but no stranger to cosmetic titans. As a close friend of Caitlyn Jenner, Hutchins witnessed the Olympian-turned activist/socialite’s battle with skin cancer in 2018. And because of her closeness with Caitlyn Jenner, she spends significant time learning from Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian, who have built billion-dollar makeup brands Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty from Instagram.

“I have a really good relationship with all of them,” says Hutchins. “What Kylie [Jenner’s] done is amazing. I admire that she’s been able to convert fans, likes and shares into buys—and she works nonstop.”

Hutchins transitioned to a woman as a freshman at Pepperdine University and graduated from the University in 2018 with a degree in economics, with the intention of going into investment banking rather than entrepreneurship. During her senior year, she lamented with her friend, the daughter of Kiehl’s founder, about the impossibility of flawless makeup and sun protection.

From that conversation, she was advised by Nick Drake, CMO of T-Mobile and worked with big three consulting firm to develop a sunscreen product for makeup wearers. Lumasol was born, and with her board of scientific advisors from UCSF, the U.S.-manufactured product was approved by the FDA as an over-the-counter product. The recyclable product will protect from 98% of UV and UB rays and will be sold direct-to-consumer via subscription, according to Hutchins.

“You could compare it to Dollar Shave Club or Harry’s,” says Hutchins. “I know this business is going to be a success.”

For Ian Sigalow, founder of Greycroft Ventures, who has previously led the firm’s investments in Venmo, Braintree and Shipt, he saw the potential for the product from the hundreds of dollars his family of five spends on goopy sunscreen every single year. “There’s an opportunity to do what Juul did for the cigarette category by changing the delivery mechanism and changing the formula somewhat to win really big market share,” says Sigalow, noting that the design firm behind Juul also designed Lumasol, as a conscious effort habituate healthy habits after doing the opposite with the e-cigarette giant.

Lumasol will not be the only ‘mastige’ post-makeup sunscreen spray on the market. Semi-premium sunscreen brand Supergoop retails a SPF 50 setting spray product at $12 per ounce. Coola, Kate Sommerville, Shisheido and Ulta Beauty, among others, offer makeup setting sprays with SPF.

So what compelled Founders Fund send Hutchins a term sheet within an hour of her pitch presentation? “Founders Fund invests in founders, first and foremost. Sophia [Hutchins] was such an incredibly strong person when she came in and pitched us on her vision.” says Cyan Bannister, the partner at Founders Fund who led the round. “She’s identified an underserved market and a product that people would want. The fact is that she can leverage her connections to power the distribution behind the product.”

Lumasol’s packaging is also a huge draw for the investors. The bottle changes color when exposed to UV and UB rays, letting its owner know it’s time for another spritz, and habituating reapplication. Additionally, the product’s design and functionality make it highly ‘grammable—a deliberate strategy for Hutchins’ plan to rely heavily on Instagram influencer marketing, with probable Jenner/Kardashian spots, to market the product.

“There’s obviously precedent with the Jenners in the skincare industry. That was not lost on me when we made the investment,” says Sigalow. “One of our theses around next generation brands is: If you attach an influencer with a huge following to a consumer product, it’s like having your own media channel, so Lumasol’s starting on third base—they’re going to take off.”

In preparation for Lumasol’s Q1 2020 rollout, Hutchins is hiring an “extraordinarily experienced CMO,” adding to the “hundreds” of user tests, and developing her influencer, popup and outdoor event event strategy. “I have a social obligation to give people a product that can seamlessly fit into their lives and also save their lives,” she says.

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I’m the assistant editor for Under 30. Previously, I directed marketing at a mobile app startup. I’ve also worked at The New York Times and New York Observer. I attended the University of Pennsylvania where I studied English and creative writing.

Source: 23-Year-Old Sophia Hutchins, Jenner Family Insider, Raises Millions For Post-Makeup Sunscreen Mist

Sophia Hutchins is an entrepreneur at the crossroads of health, beauty and tech. She is both founder and CEO of Luma Suncare Inc. She successfully closed her first round of venture funding in March 2019. She is busily preparing for the launch of her company. Hutchins is an outspoken advocate for women and equality in the workplace. People can often find her speaking to groups within corporate America and her favorite of all groups to speak with are entrepreneurial women. Prior to starting her venture, she served as CEO of the Caitlyn Jenner Foundation.

Singapore’s Richest 2019: ‘Popiah King’ Outfits Factory Buildout For Meat Alternatives

At 70, Singapore’s “popiah king” Sam Goi still has his sights set on expanding his food and property empire. After earning his royal sobriquet—and his $2 billion fortune—making the paper-thin crepes used to wrap spring rolls known as popiah, he is now branching out. He wants to invest in meat substitutes and other special-diet foods, and play angel investor to food startups like the one he started in 1977, Tee Yih Jia Food.

More On Forbes: Singapore’s Richest 2019: At 101, The World’s Oldest Billionaire Has No Plans To Slow Down

Today In: Asia

Goi knows something about building a brand. Privately held Tee Yih Jia (TYJ) today exports Asian food items such as spring rolls, glutinous rice balls and samosas to more than 80 countries. It’s now in the process of doubling its production capacity with a new facility due for completion in 2021.

Goi’s Singapore-listed development company GSH, however, has hit a lull. After a S$75 million windfall in 2017 from its sale of private-equity unit Plaza Ventures, net profits dropped 93% in 2018 to S$6 million on a 9% decline in revenues. That’s pushed GSH’s shares down 13% in the past year, helping pull Goi’s fortune down by $100 million.

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Goi arrived in Singapore in 1955 when he was six years old with little but the shirt on his back after his family fled China’s Fujian province in a small boat. Goi dropped out of high school, but used his training in a repair shop to gain a toehold in the food industry.

With S$450,000 borrowed from a bank and his father, he bought an underperforming food company and overhauled it, increasing production from 3,200 popiah skins a day to 25,000. In 1980, he brought in technicians to design the world’s first automated system for making spring roll pastries at the blistering rate of 30 million a day. He then branched out, pumping out fortune cookies, flatbread and samosas.

More on Forbes: Singapore’s Richest 2019: Daryl Ng Takes His Family’s Sino Group Into The Future With 5G, AI

Goi returned to his hometown in Fujian in 1985 and built his first China factory there, later adding a frozen-food facility, a brewery and a vinegar plant in other parts of China. Goi also snapped up land in China’s second-tier cities long before China’s property boom. Most of Goi’s exposure to property, though, has come through GSH, where he now has a nearly 60% stake.

TYJ also has a subsidiary in Yangzhou focused on developing residential and commercial properties in surrounding Jiangsu province. But Goi’s plans for TYJ are more food-related. Goi’s daughter Laureen, who runs TYJ Food Manufacturing, has been building a state-of-the-art food factory nearly four times larger than the present one in Singapore, with the latest in automation, including driverless vehicles.

The new facility will also have a laboratory developing new products, and TYJ may even invest in and incubate promising food ventures, furthering Goi’s legacy as a foodstuff innovator.

Correction: the original version of this story incorrectly stated Goi’s late son Ben was involved in TYJ’s factory expansion. It is his daughter Laureen. Also corrected is that the new facility is an expansion not a replacement of the existing manufacturing plant.  

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Pamela covers entrepreneurs, wealth, blockchain and the crypto economy as a senior reporter across digital and print platforms. Prior to Forbes, she served as on-air foreign correspondent for Thomson Reuters’ broadcast team, during which she reported on global markets, central bank policies, and breaking business news. Before Asia, she was a journalist at NBC Comcast, and started her career at CNBC and Bloomberg as a financial news producer in New York. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and holds an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Yahoo, USA Today, Huffington Post, and Nasdaq. Pamela’s previous incarnation was on the buy side in M&A research and asset management, inspired by Michael Lewis’ book “Liar’s Poker”. Follow me on Twitter at @pamambler

Source: Singapore’s Richest 2019: ‘Popiah King’ Outfits Factory Buildout For Meat Alternatives

First Runner Up for Singapore Heritage Short Film Competition 2018

This Kombucha Entrepreneur Hired a Man Who Spoke No English. He Is Now a Company Executive

Fifteen years ago, a non-English-speaking man applied to work at GT’s Living Foods. In Spanish, he told the hiring manager, “I am willing to do anything.” He got the job.

Originally, his job was to sweep and mop the floors. He moved up to housekeeping, and later was promoted to work on the bottling line.

“Every month, every quarter, every year he grew, and his attitude got better,” says GT Dave, founder and CEO of GT’s Living Foods. “He promised he would do anything, and he did. He had zero ego, zero pride, and the best attitude I’ve ever seen.”

Dave even goes so far as to say that this hire is better at his job than any other employee–even those with more education and industry experience. Unlike many people, who are specifically good at only one or two tasks, this employee has an affinity for quickly learning how to do many different things. And now he’s an executive at GT’s Living Foods. His job is to develop kombucha flavors and to run production lines. He’s also a general problem solver for the company.

In a company like GT’s Living Foods, Dave says, he needs people who are scrappy, flexible, and quick to jump on problems that need solving. “We’re very, very lean. We’re very, very agile. We’re much more artistic than we are corporate,” Dave says. “It’s a hard environment for your typical executive to exist in.”

As such, Ivy League degrees and decades of experience don’t necessarily count for much. Dave says résumés don’t matter to him: He looks for the same can-do attitude in every applicant who walks in the door. And, once he hires someone, that person has to keep proving she’s worthy of the job.

“I want to see what you can do here, and now. That’s my litmus test for talent,” says Dave.

By: Lizabeth Frohwein

 

Source: This Kombucha Entrepreneur Hired a Man Who Spoke No English. He Is Now a Company Executive

Our Founder & CEO, GT Dave, speaks to industry leaders & entrepreneurial pioneers on “Keeping The Attachment” at BevNet Live Winter 2018 in Santa Monica, CA. Watch to the end to see the announcement of our newest offering, DREAM CATCHER: Our CBD-Infused Sparkling Wellness Water. For more information about GT Dave and GT’s Living Foods, visit GTsLivingFoods.com. Follow @GTsKombucha on Social Media! Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GTsLivingFoods/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gtskombucha/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/gtskombucha Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gtskombucha/ LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/gts-… Website: https://gtslivingfoods.com

 

The Tragedy Behind The Death of Former Billionaire V.G. Siddhartha, India’s Coffee King

As young man, V.G. Siddhartha struggled to find the right path for himself. Perhaps the armed forces? No, no—a failed entrance exam to India’s National Defense Academy put the kibosh on that idea. What about community activism? “I was impressed by the philosophies of Karl Marx,” Siddhartha recalled a few years ago, “and really thought I would become a communist leader.”

After graduating from St. Aloysius College in southern India, he struck out into the provinces, eager to put Marx’s maxims to work raising the fortunes of the poor. This proved as impractical as military service. The countryside was rife with corruption and nepotism, impeding any progressive agenda. “India was so poor that there was no scope to become a Robin Hood,” Siddhartha said. “That’s when I realized that rather than being a wealth distributor, I should become a wealth creator.”

He did just that, founding India’s largest coffee-shop chain, Coffee Day Enterprises, a $572 million-in-sales business (with more than 10,000 employees) that persuaded a country raised on tea to consume something else entirely. It made him a wealthy man, one of the richest in India and, for a brief moment after Coffee Day’s 2015 IPO, a billionaire. Siddhartha came to represent everything India dreamed of becoming: a modern nation where entrepreneurs could brew new ideas, changing their lives and the circumstances of everyone connected to them as a result. That’s a radical notion for a nation constricted by millennia-old rigidity around class, structure and expectations. Siddhartha was fully aware of this. “If I was born 20 years earlier, I would have surely failed,” he said in 2011.

In death, Siddhartha, whose body was found Wednesday morning in the Netravati River in an apparent suicide, will likely also come to represent grimmer realities: the limits of the Indian economic miracle, the constraints of creating a business within a developing market, and the alleged harassment by government officials, which would have been not unlike the corruption that disgusted him in the first place.

Siddhartha was reared on coffee, his father’s family longtime plantation owners in. He resisted following tradition, though, and after college, in 1983, he took two busses from the countryside to Bombay, where he talked his way into a meeting with one of the country’s biggest stock-brokerage businesses. (He’d read about investing in a magazine and found it interesting.) To be more precise, Siddhartha charmed the secretary of the firm’s chief executive, Mahendra Kampani, and with the secretary’s help, showed up at Kampani’s office one day.

“The first thing was, I felt intimidated by the two elevators [at the Bombay office]. I had never taken an elevator in my life. So I climbed up the six floors,”  Siddhartha later described that first day. From there, he reached Kampani’s inner sanctum. “He asked me who I was. I told him that I had come all the way from Bangalore, and I wanted to work for him. … I had never seen an office as large as his. … He said he would take me in, but he had no idea who I was.”

Quickly Siddhartha proved to be a natural. “If I started with $1,000, I made a $3,000 by the end of the day’s trade,” he said. By his own estimate, it took him only a year and a half to learn the brokerage game and build up enough wealth to launch his own book back in Bangalore. He started funneling profits into coffee plantations, amassing 2,500 acres by 1992.

Around then, the Indian government pared back regulations on coffee growers. Before, they had been forced to sell to a national clearinghouse for 35 cents a pound, less than half what the beans could fetch overseas. As the rules fell away, prices for coffee began to rise. They hit $2.20 a pound in 1994 when a freeze in Brazil decimated that country’s crop. Siddhartha picked up the slack, fulfilling orders for 4,000 tons. The unexpected boom paved the way for another idea: a string of coffee houses, modeled on a similar idea he’d seen in Singapore. In 1994, Coffee Day Enterprises opened its first 20 stores. Siddhartha was “constantly thinking and creating, never happy to rest on his success,” says Nandan Nilekani, a friend and former CEO of Infosys Technologies, an Indian technology-consulting business.

Since Siddhartha owned coffee farms, he could cut away many of the middlemen who added expenses to his rivals; he even milled timber from his properties and turned it into furniture for his restaurants. Coffee Day really took off once he added computers with internet access to his locations, creating some of India’s first cyber cafes.

What Siddhartha loved more than coffee was working, and he celebrated New Year’s Eve 2009 in a Coffee Day, taking notes on how to improve service—and going behind the counter to see firsthand how customers treated his employees. “I was simply amazed how indifferent people are to those who serve. Three rich women came, ordered their drinks, did not once look at me, and settled the check, did not care to tip me, but worse, did not say a ‘thank you’ before leaving for someplace else where revelry awaited them,” he said. “It shocked me because it was New Year’s Eve. I thought people would be nice to others because they themselves were in such a joyous state of mind.”

His industriousness was getting noticed. The following year, a group of investors, including famed KKR, put $200 million in Coffee Day for a 34% stake. Revenue was then around $200 million, and sales nearly doubled within four years, the point when Siddhartha took his company public. His caffeinated kingdom extended across India, to 1,513 cafes in 219 cities. But to keep expanding, Siddhartha grew addicted to something that would, apparently, weigh heavily on his mind at the end of his life: debt financing. Coffee Day’s total liabilities blossomed from $189 million in 2011 to $758 million last year.

Earlier in 2019, Siddhartha began searching for a way to answer demands from his growing mountain of creditors. He tried, futilely, to talk Coca-Cola into buying a stake in Coffee Day and explored other asset sales, desperate to widen his cash stream. In a more mature economy, he might have secured different sorts of funding from the beginning—presumably the private equity investors he attracted in 2010 pushed him to load up on debt—or had the opportunity to borrow at less onerous rates. We’ll never know what would have happened had that been the case. But on July 29, Siddhartha switched his phone off, instructed his driver to take him to the Ullal Bridge over the Netravati River, got out of the car and was never seen alive again.

Purportedly, Siddhartha left behind a note, outlining the grief that drove him to his tragic end. He highlighted harassment from a tax official, prompting outcries from Indian politicians that the government has not done enough to boost entrepreneurs like Siddhartha and tamp down on corruption. Siddhartha also mentioned needing to borrow a large sum from a friend to stay afloat and, of course, mounting pressure from lenders. “My intention was never to cheat or mislead anyone, I have failed as an entrepreneur,” the letter reads. “This is my sincere submission, I hope someday you will understand, forgive and pardon me.”

The missive’s authenticity has not been verified. But its ending is certainly very Siddhartha, a cool-minded tabulation and twin insistences: that he hoped his assets would outweigh his liabilities and that, in the end, his family and business “can repay everyone.”

At Forbes, I cover the world’s wealthiest capitalists, as well as other entrepreneurs. For ForbesLife and Forbes’ lifestyle pages, I write about life’s greatest indulgences, including the finest chefs, food and booze

 

Source: The Tragedy Behind The Death of Former Billionaire V.G. Siddhartha, India’s Coffee King

Philippine Retail Billionaire Moves From Fashion to Pets

Robinson Retail Holdings Inc.’s head office in Manila.

Billionaire John Gokongwei’s Robinsons Retail Holdings Inc. is considering an exit from the fashion business as it struggles to compete with cheaper, faster chains like Fast Retailing Co.’s Uniqlo. Stock jumps to three-week high.

The Filipino retail giant, whose fashion portfolio includes the Topshop and Dorothy Perkins brands, instead sees better returns from pet, health and beauty products where demand is growing, said Chief Executive Officer Robina Gokongwei-Pe in an interview.

“We are shrinking fashion, for it has become very difficult,” Gokongwei-Pe said. “There are other brands that came in who are more progressive and cheaper. We are already reducing the number of stores and we have to think if we move out altogether.”

The Manila-based company is relooking its business as it faces shrinking operating margins and growing competition in the low-cost space. It’s pivoting into wooing higher-spending consumers by entering into the premium grocery market, as well as expanding foreign franchises in beauty products and pet care, hoping to achieve 15% revenue growth annually for the next five years.

“Pets have become very big,” said Gokongwei-Pe. “Dogs now are very spoiled. Just look at Instagram and Facebook, it’s all about dogs. You should put money where the money is, which is food, drugstores, hardware, and growing businesses like pets and beauty.”

Robinsons Retail’s fashion portfolio has contracted to six brands and 40 stores at end-2018 from nine brands with 60 stores in 2014. Fashion is among the company’s specialty shops, which were cut to 341 in March from 387 at end-2018.

The company in December bought the local franchise for South Korean personal care and beauty products retailer Arcova and Club Clio, adding to 15 stand-alone stores selling Elizabeth Arden, Shiseido and Benefit Cosmetics. It also procured the license for Singapore’s Pet Lovers Centre in October and plans to open a second outlet as early as this year.

“Robinsons Retail is deploying its capital in a way that promises more growth,” said Miguel Ong, analyst at AP Securities Inc. “Fashion isn’t attractive as before with the rise of online platforms and brands like Uniqlo dominating the market.”

Click RRHI PM <Equity> ANR to see how analysts rate the stock.

Targeting Affluent Shoppers

Under a five-year plan targeting mid-to-high teen revenue growth, Robinsons Retail will spend between three billion pesos ($59 million) and five billion pesos to add 100 to 150 stores a year, according to Gokongwei-Pe. The retailer has 1,911 stores in various formats, excluding 1,960 outlets of its The Generics Pharmacy.

Revenue contribution from supermarkets will rise to 55% this year from 47% in 2018 after its acquisition of former rival Rustan Supercenters, whose 36 supermarkets cater to affluent shoppers. Robinsons Retail’s own 160 supermarkets cater mainly to mainstream consumers.

Robinsons Retail loses value, trails Philippine stock index since Rustan purchase

The acquisition and other new stores will improve gross profit margin by 10 to 20 basis points this year, said Gokongwei-Pe.

Operating margin, which fell below 5% in 2018, will shrink further due to write-offs related to the Rustan purchase. It will “definitely” improve in 2020, when the integration is completed, she said.

Other highlights:

  • A foreign executive has been hired to manage Mini Stop, which has potential to double its 5% sales contribution in 2018, if the convenience stores are “scientifically” ran.
  • Robinsons Retail is considering creating its own e-commerce app for its supermarkets to fill the gap left by Honestbee’s closure in the Philippines. It may start from scratch or expand Growsari Inc., a grocery delivery service for mom-and-pop stores.
  • The closure of Honestbee caused a dip in supermarket sales and will impact this year’s performance as same-store sales growth could have been 4.2% to 4.5% instead of 3%.

By

 

Source: Philippine Retail Billionaire Moves From Fashion to Pets – Bloomberg

How Did The Owner and Builder Of The Newly-Completed 450-foot-Long Superyacht Flying Fox Keep It A Secret For So Long?

The short answer for such a massive superyact is, they didn’t really. But that doesn’t mean the experienced owner—who worked with the red-hot superyacht exterior designer Espen Oeino, interior designer Mark Berryman and the highly experienced, megayacht builders at Lürssen in Germany—couldn’t at least try. So, the 450-foot-long, 67-foot-wide yacht was built in the relative secrecy of Lürssen’s enormous manufacturing facility. And the yacht that took several years, and $100’s of millions to build (and probably more than a few non-disclosure agreements) was always referred to by its code name: Project Shu.

But then again, it was extremely hard to keep a yacht that’s much longer than a football field a secret when it finally emerged from the builders covered facility earlier this spring. And even harder once her sea trials on the Baltic began earlier this summer.

And as you can see in the few photos that have finally emerged (it’s now called by its real name—Flying Fox) Espen Oeino has designed an elegant yacht exterior that that looks sleek in spite of her massive over-all volume.

The balance and proportion of the exterior allows for generous deck space that offer a range of options for owners and guests to enjoy. Numerous terraces and platforms open out over the water to provide fantastic access the water. While every other exterior element, from sun decks and open entertainment areas to more shaded and intimate spaces, has been designed to provide the highest level of luxury.

For example, all superyachts have swimming pools, but Flying Fox is special in that its enormous swimming pool that runs from side to side on the main deck. The exterior also is equipped two helicopter landing pads, one on the bridge deck and another on the sun deck aft, that makes it possible to for owners and guests to use multiple helicopters.

Meanwhile, advance reports about the interior (no photos of the interior have been published yet) say interior designer Mark Berryman’s has interior has a calm and spacious feel featuring soft neutral tones and tactile finishes.

And as you can see from what the builder and project manager of this massive yacht said when the yacht was launched earlier this spring, they kept the “secret” going for as long as they could.

“Project SHU represents a major milestone for Imperial.” says Julia Stewart, Director at Imperial Yachts who brought their vast experience and knowledge to their supervision of the massive build project. “Being involved in impressive superyacht projects like these show our capacity and experience in superyacht and megayacht management, with regular deliveries of 80m+ projects supervised and operated by our team since 2015. Our strong and very dynamic links with Lürssen, Espen Oeino and Mark Berryman helped to achieve one of the most impressive vessel of the next decade”

Shipyard Managing Partner Peter Lürssen proudly states: “SHU fulfills the requests of a very experienced owner in an exceptional way. The owner’s input within all aspects of the yacht’s design was clear, strong and exacting. Building SHU was a significant challenge and we are very proud of this achievement. She represents another remarkable milestone in our history.”

But the secret is out now, and tuned for much more from Lürssen and Espen Oeino. The German yard, and Norwegian designer have been very, very busy.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

During my previous life as an editor at several American yachting magazines, I was lucky enough to sail thousands of offshore miles on a wide variety of boats. My job as yachting scribe has brought me on adventures from the Arctic Circle to the equator, and to nearly every tropical destination in between. I’ve dodged high-speed hydrofoils on the brown waters off St. Petersburg, Russia, anchored in impossibly blue water off uninhabited islands in the Seychelles, Scandinavia, the BVI, and the Bahamas, and even flown aboard a Jayhawk helicopter with the US Coast Guard on training missions. These days, when I’m not travelling or writing about the magic that happens at confluence of superyachts, offshore adventure, luxury travel, and technology, I sail my ultra-simple, ultra-fast dinghy, ride my gorgeous and gloriously-expensive carbon fiber bike, and push our little one in a baby stroller all over New England.

Source: How Did The Owner and Builder Of The Newly-Completed 450-foot-Long Superyacht Flying Fox Keep It A Secret For So Long?

Australian Billionaire James Packer’s Fortune To Fall After Deal To Sell Part of Crown Casino

Australian casino mogul James Packer agreed to sell nearly 50% of his remaining stake in Crown Resorts Limited to Macau billionaire Lawrence Ho’s Melco on Thursday. The deal will close in two tranches—one in early June and the other in late September.

Melco also said that it’ll pursue a larger stake in Crown as well as board seats, pending regulatory approvals. The $1.22 billion (A$1.75 billion) purchase price is a tiny premium—not even 1%—over Crown’s closing price Thursday. On Friday, Crown’s stock dropped 3% on the Australian Securities Exchange from the previous day.

Forbes calculates Packer’s net worth at about $3 billion, based on the $850 million he’ll likely receive (net of taxes), and Friday’s closing stock price. That’s a drop of $600 million since January when we published our ranks of Australia’s Richest. At the time he was the nation’s ninth richest person, worth $3.6 billion.

It’s quite a comedown for Packer, whose father was considered one of Australia’s most successful entrepreneurs. Kerry Packer, who died in 2005, owned Australia’s leading television network and the country’s biggest swath of magazines. Kerry had inherited a media company from his father, Sir Frank, and grew it into a broadcasting and publishing empire worth $5 billion. James Packer seemed up for the job, and was initially lauded for reinventing his father’s empire by selling most of the Packer family media assets to a Hong Kong-based private equity firm for $4 billion across two deals in 2006 and 2007 and moving into casinos. A decade ago, James Packer was the nation’s richest person. Five years ago, his net worth peaked at $6.6 billion. Today he’s worth less than half that.

This is not the first time Melco and Crown have done business. The two companies partnered in 2004 to develop and operate casinos in Macau. The partnership ended in 2017 when Packer sold his Macau assets back to Melco to focus on his Australia-based casinos.

Lawrence Ho, CEO of Melco, who like Packer is the son of a powerful, legendary entrepreneur (97 year old Stanley Ho, who retired last year), is currently worth $2.1 billion, according to Forbes. Most of his net worth is tied up in Melco, in which he owns an approximate 54% stake.

Currently, the biggest project for Crown is its $1.5 billion casino in Sydney, which is slated to open in 2020.

Earlier this year Packer tried to cash out of Crown. In April, Wynn Resorts, which was founded by billionaires Steve and Elaine Wynn, explored taking over Crown for $7 billion. But hours after Crown announced the proposed deal, Wynn Resorts issued a statement saying it was off due to “premature disclosure.”

Packer stepped down from Crown Resorts’ board in March 2018. Four months later, he resigned from the board of his family company Consolidated Press, which he and his sister inherited from their father.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Packer has been seeking a lower-profile life since stepping down from Crown’s board. “He definitely wants an easier life, and a less-stress life,” one colleague told the paper. “No doubt about that.”

Packer’s board exits were reportedly due in part to mental health issues, following a tough year when Crown exited its Macau and U.S. gambling investments.

Packer, who has three children living in Los Angeles with his ex-wife, Erica Packer, also finances Hollywood films via his RatPac Entertainment, which he cofounded with Brett Ratner, who directed the Rush Hour film series and X-Men 3: The Last Stand.

I cover the world’s richest people as a member of the Forbes Wealth Team. Before Forbes, I was a staff writer at Inc. magazine, covering entrepreneurs doing business

Source: Australian Billionaire James Packer’s Fortune To Fall After Deal To Sell Part of Crown Casino

Three Conclusions From The 2019 Berkshire Shareholders Meeting

A Berkshire Hathaway shareholder arranges her shopping next to a large drawing of Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, during a shareholders shopping event in Omaha, Neb., Friday, May 3, 2019, one day before Berkshire Hathaway's annual shareholders meeting. An estimated 40,000 people are expected in town for the event, where Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger will preside over the meeting and spend hours answering questions. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

A Berkshire Hathaway shareholder arranges her shopping next to a large drawing of Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, during a shareholders shopping event in Omaha, Neb., Friday, May 3, 2019, one day before Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholders meeting. An estimated 40,000 people are expected in town for the event, where Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger will preside over the meeting and spend hours answering questions. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholders’ meeting as in past years yielded various insights on Warren Buffett’s and Charlie Munger’s insights on the markets, politics, tech stockspast mistakes and many other topics.

Further Buybacks On The Cards

It should come as no surprise that Buffett and Munger are considering further buybacks of Berkshire stock. With a large, and growing, cash pile and limited deal opportunities to date, they are likely to use cash to repurchase Berkshire shares as the fallback option. In fact, the pair used answers to certain questions, such as regarding Brexit in the U.K. to remind the audience that they are very willing to make acquisitions in Europe should they see the right deal at the right price. They feel that Berkshire is typically considered for deals in the U.S.. Yet, internationally they have more work to do to have Berkshire in consideration for a large business sale. Still, the emphasis on buybacks suggests that there is little in the deal pipeline for now, though of course that could change quickly. Buffett and Munger would love to see more attractive deals, but absent attractive opportunities, stock buybacks are the default.

Another Bite Out Of Apple?

Buffett and Munger were both very positive on current holding Apple, and Apple CEO Tim Cook was also at the event. It seemed clear that Buffett was quite willing to up his Apple stake at the right price.

Various objections such as potential regulation of Apple’s app store were raised in questions, though Buffett didn’t dismiss those concerns entirely, he mentioned that what has hurt the most is that the stock has gone up. That, the CEO’s presence and the fact that Buffett didn’t go out of his way to make the detailed bull case on Apple all suggest he make be angling to up his stake at the right price, even though Apple is currently Berkshire’s second largest public holding behind Coca-Cola.

A More Flexible Approach To Value Investing

Over his lifetime, Buffett’s investing approach has evolved and it continues to. In his early years, Buffett loved buying so-called cigar butt stocks, as popularized by his early mentor Ben Graham. This means stocks that may have been poor companies, but were trading well below the value of assets that could be sold realizing a profit for investors. Such deals are harder to come by now. As such Buffett looks more for great businesses at reasonable prices, a direction that Munger has clearly prodded him in. However, now Buffett talks of value investing in broader more creative terms, such that any stock where the likely expected cashflows exceed the price can be attractive, even if not cheap in on the traditional metrics and ratios associated with value investing.

So though Buffett’s approach continued to be refined, its core principles remain the same in looking for great businesses at attractive prices with sound management in place. In reviewing Buffett and Munger’s comments, one is left with the feeling that they are seeing few bargains in this market and buybacks paired with watching and waiting for certain key holdings such as Apple to fall so they might add more is the current strategy. Aside, from the comments at the meeting, the fact that the company is sitting on over $100 billion of cash and short-term securities at the end of 2018 reinforces that Buffett and Munger aren’t seeing the opportunities they would hope for in the current environment.

Articles educational only, not intended as investment advice.

Follow @simonwmoore on Twitter. Simon is Chief Investment Officer at Moola, and author of Digital Wealth (2015) and Strategic Project Portfolio Management (2009).

Source: Three Conclusions From The 2019 Berkshire Shareholders Meeting

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