Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders
Mattresses and pillows, a diversified portfolio
With financial markets in turmoil and the U.S. economy in recession, we asked top entertainment and sports executives at the Reuters Media Summit for some investment advice.
Our question: “If we gave you $50,000, where would you invest?” One rule: They couldn’t pick their own company. But then we thought $50,000 was too little for well heeled executives, so we switched it to $50 million. But that seemed excessive. After all, we’re talking about personal investments — so we settled on giving them a cool $1 million.
Here’s what they said:
“In a pillow … You might look at the energy sector, you might see what happens with gold. I’ve got cousins who work in the banking industry. When I asked them, they told me put it in my pillow. That is your answer.”
– Havas’s MPG Chief Operating Officer Steve Lanzano
“I would be in the most conservative mechanisms I could — treasury bills, whatever, absolutely. The old trite bromide about cash is king? Well, that is true and more true today than ever before.”
– Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig
“I’d put 40 percent of it into exceedingly high-yielding senior debt securities in a diversified array of businesses. I’d put 30 percent of it with a pretty diverse array of fund managers who have a strong track record of navigating choppy times in an array of strategies. And then I’d take the final 30 percent and buy Time Warner stock … I will tell you why I love Time Warner. OK, so it’s trading at 50 percent of book, and these are people who, post AOL, were incredibly aggressive about writing down their book value. So it’s trading at 50 percent of essentially tangible books, tangibles you are going to get for a media company. They are not especially exposed to advertising. A lot of their revenues are very sticky. They still own their cable assets. You are getting a free option on the value of whatever happens in the spin-off. They generate, I think, $13 billion in EBITDA right now, if I’m not mistaken. And all their debt obligations are laddered out well into the future so they have no particular financing risk. So if you figure we have three horrible years ahead of us — and I don’t believe we do, but if you do — they are perfectly fine from a capital point of view for the next few years. And even after all obligations, all repayments, all capex, they still generate loads of free cash flow. Even if you don’t think they are particularly well-positioned strategically — they are currently yielding 2.7 percent, and I see no reason for the dividend to go down.”
– Take Two Interactive Inc Chairman Strauss Zelnick
“If I had a knife, I would probably put it in my mattress. No, seriously, I think if somebody gave you $1 million today, I think my gut tells me that the market would probably be a good place to put it … But there’s a little bit of hesitancy there. Have you reached bottom yet? Who knows. Do you actually have to actually reach bottom before it’s a good time to invest? Probably not. But this might be a good time to put money in the market if somebody just hands you $1 million … I would avoid the financial stocks for now because I’m not sure all the bad news is out. You know, you would think as low as some of those stocks are, that there would be buys, but some of them may not be around at all. So I would stay out of the financial sector. I probably would steer more toward durables and things that people are going to need year in and year out. They can be a bit volatile too, but you know that they are going to be around for years to come. I don’t think I would invest in domestic auto stocks today. You know, natural resources and products that are going to continue to be in demand, even some of the medical and drug companies.”
– Regal Entertainment Group CEO Mike Campbell
“Pay off my mortgage would be number one. Yes, absolutely, I would pay my mortgage. And then other than that I would … because I live in California and my family does it for a living, I think real estate is a great buy right now in California. There’s a lot of depressed prices — business is out there and real estate out there. I like real estate. It will come back.”
– Live Nation CEO Mike Rapino
“It looks to me like there are buys all over the place. I am not an investor or an economist, but just generally speaking, it looks like these companies that we deal with that I know are well managed, companies like Coca-Cola or Disney that are well managed, many of them are just going to be good buys. But I’m not an investor, so what do I know?”
– NASCAR CEO Brian France
“So 12 years… I took every dime that I had and I put it into tax-free municipal bonds. And then a year ago, but for what I own in Sirius, every dime that I have is either in insured, tax-free municipal bonds or treasuries. So I have been a terrible investor because if you look at the last 12 years, my portfolio has only grown for those 12 years about 3 percent a year. Now if you looked at the stock market during that period of time, I have left an awful lot of money on the table. But if you look, I guess, over the last year, I have done OK compared to where a lot of people were.”
– Sirius XM Radio Inc CEO Mel Karmazin
“I would invest at least 70 percent of it in stocks. I would put a big chunk in Goldman Sachs. I would put some in GE. I would put some in McDonald’s. I would put some in new energy, new innovations. I would definitely put a load in Google, and I would put a chunk in Microsoft. So that’s split between technology, and I would think about retailers as well. And then I would keep a chunk in cash, 20 percent. And then I’d put 10 percent in governent bonds. But I believe the valuations at the moment, the prices are so disconnected from values of some great companies with tremendous equities that there’s tremendous value for the long term.”
– Interpublic’s Mediabrands CEO Nick Brien
Would you put your million in the piggy bank?