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May 30th, 2014

The Ultimate Selfie: The PE Fund Annual Meeting

The ultimate selfie: The PE Fund annual meeting. Each Spring in a ritual as reliable as the family trip to the Jersey Shore investors flock to the annual meeting to learn the status of their investments. The length of the meetings are as short as two hours or as long as two days. The venues range from basement conference rooms to The Waldorf or even to resorts on Caribbean Islands. Meetings range from small gatherings that only include investors to mosh pits resembling a financial Woodstock that include investors, bankers, financial press, all portfolio executives, prospective investors, political luminaries and Waldo. The more focused meetings are limited to presentations regarding the PE fund’s investment activity followed by a meal. The multi-day meetings may include golf, multiple meals, hot air balloon rides, a concert by The Eagles and a flyover by the Blue Angels. Gifts to the attendees range from none to rides home on a corporate jet. One memorable gift was a backpack, monogrammed with the logo of the PE firm, given to all attendees at a meeting held at a mid-town Manhattan hotel. A few hours later the same backpacks were seen being worn by weed vendors who had picked up the backpacks abandoned by attendees. I doubt the presence of the PE firm’s logo on drug dealers’ backs attracted many new investors. Information handed to investors can be as little as a compact copy of a presentation to as much as stacks of paper requiring a grocery cart to transport them home. Guest speakers at these meetings span from a portfolio CEO to political figures such as Ben Bernanke or via Skype, Edward Snowden.

A typical public company annual meeting lasts a few hours. The State of the Union address is a touch more than an hour. It is a challenge to believe it requires two days to summarize a firm’s activities. Presentations are often reminiscent of Beowulf, where the same story is retold several times for fear the audience missed a point. Dodd-Frank will no doubt reduce both the continued presence of guests whose presence is being paid for by the PE Fund and the delivery of attendee gifts or free sports activities. As technology progresses, the entire process might move to an app available on an investor’s smart phone.

I’m Rob Morris and I approved this blog.

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