Fortress CEO to analysts: We don’t call them “losses”
Forgive Wes Edens, CEO of Fortress Investment Group, for being a bit tetchy these days.
His publicly traded investment group posted a first quarter net loss of $69 million, compared to gains of $62.1 million a year earlier, as the markets pummeled its public stock holdings, among other factors. And its share price has fallen by half since it listed just over a year ago on the New York Stock Exchange.
So when an analyst pointed out on last week’s first-quarter earnings call that FIG’s public portfolio holdings fell from $7.8 billion just over a year ago to $765 million now – a $7 billion decline – Edens struggled to avoid using the dreaded “L” word, for loss. Most of the decline, he said, was “a reduction of market value,” or maybe an “unrealized” loss, since it continues to hold most of the assets, having sold only around $1.5 billion of them.
“I think that the use of the word loss in this case is pejorative and actually not at all accurate,” sniffed Edens to Rashad Fonti, analyst from Citigroup, whose bank – like most others – has used the word “loss” all too often in recent months in describing its performance.
Edens, a hedge fund guy who has evidently not gotten used to running a public company and being subjected to pesky analyst questions (or worse, media questions), took umbrage when Fonti basically said the company had failed its investors by not selling the stock holdings before the market turned last year. (Underlying message: how smart are you overcompensated hedge fund guys anyway?)
“You were almost $8 billion, (and now) you’re down to less than a billion dollars,” said Fonti, according to a transcript of the call. “You didn’t take the gains. The money was lost.”
That was all a bit much for Edens, who basically said the market is wrong in its valuations. “It’s actually not a loss as long as we still own the investment, right? And since we have investments in companies that we think have a tremendous amount of value, it’s a mark-to-market issue.”
Right. Those markets have a way of getting it all wrong. And hey, while we’re at it, who needs this quarterly numbers stuff anyway? We’re a long-term business. Get it?? LONG-TERM. And you analysts should be happy we give you any insight at all. Now go back and rework your models…
“We don’t really measure our company on a quarterly basis,” Edens told the analysts, as part of a discussion over whether it may change its dividend to adjust for ups and downs in performance. “We have quarterly conference calls like this to give you insight into how the company is doing, but we really look at the company in the aggregate in the long term.”
“Having some sort of knee jerk reaction to a quarter is not the right thing to do.”
Well, that settles that.