This has not been a salutary week for European corporate governance. At Volkswagen in Germany and at Industrivärden in Sweden, a system intended to encourage stability and long-term growth has instead created self-indulgence.
When it comes to management challenges, fish fingers and circuses are at opposite extremes: one product is the acme of industrialised food processing, the other the ultimate expression of human creativity and energy. Somehow, private equity has found room for both: last week, Permira agreed to sell Iglo, which makes Birds Eye fish fingers in Europe, after nine years running the frozen foods company, while another buyout group, TPG Capital, led a deal to gain control of Montreal’s Cirque du Soleil.
The San Francisco trial pitting Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of Silicon Valley’s oldest and most venerable venture capital firms, against Ellen Pao, a former junior partner who claims that she faced sexual harassment and discrimination, has forced an institution that prefers to remain private into the public gaze. Among other things, it has raised questions about how well John Doerr, its de facto leader, knows his own firm.
On the 50th anniversary of Berkshire Hathaway, the investment fund-cum-industrial conglomerate that now employs 341,000 people and is the fourth most valuable company in the US, the question is: is Warren Buffett inimitable? Or could the Sage of Omaha be cloned?
Permira’s agreement to buy Ancestry.com fills me with dread because I am a closet user of the genealogy site – largely through its compulsive iPad app, which my colleague Lucy Kellaway highlighted in an article in 2011.
Bought out: Prince William's family tree, as depicted by Ancestry.com
Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has been a bit of a trainwreck for the private equity industry.
First, its image of being a bunch of ruthless asset-strippers has been revived by the Democrats (and even Romney’s Republican primary opponents) and now his tax affairs are casting a dark shadow.
As the New York Times reported this weekend, Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, has launched a broad inquiry into whether private equity firms evaded tax by turning their 2 per cent management fees into performance fees, which are taxed at a lower rate. Read more