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#177 Robert Campeau (Junk Bonds and Retail Bankruptcy)
April 26th, 2021 | E177

What I learned from reading Going for Broke: How Robert Campeau Bankrupted the Retail Industry, Jolted the Junk Bond Market, and Brought the Booming Eighties to a Crashing Halt by John Rothchild.


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[0:01] A stranger comes to Wall Street, borrows nearly $4 billion to acquire a company that six months earlier he'd never even heard of. This transaction is scarcely settled before he's allowed to borrow $7 billion more to acquire a bigger company, making him a major force in retailing, an industry he knows nothing about

[11:16] Just a few weeks back, Randall had figured that Bob might be interested in attracting a single Brooks Brothers store into one of his malls. Now in a great imaginary leap, Bob had vaulted himself into the ownership of all forty-five Brooks Brothers stores. 

[15:01 Neither Bob nor his advisers really knew one investment bank from another. "It was basically a matter of looking up names in the Yellow Pages." 

[19:42] Lehman Brothers was impressed by two things: the man's obvious, if naive, enthusiasm; and the absurdity of his proposition. Those who doubted Bob could acquire Allied had grown into a large crowd that included Bob's brain trust, his advisers in Toronto, his Toronto bankers, his advisers from Paine Webber and his lawyer. 

[21:45] This was Citicorp's first clue they were dealing with a volatile character, who soon acquired the in-house nickname Mad Bomber. 

[29:26] The M&A department they established at First Boston helped the firm to a record $125 million in earnings in 1985, a long way from the $1 million it had earned in 1978. 

[33:45] He think's he's destined to take over Allied. His fortune-teller says so. 

[41:28] Bob understood that Citicorp and First Boston, who together had invested in $1.8 billion in the Street Sweep and who were going to make hundreds of millions in fees if this deal closed, were not about to let the deal fall apart because he didn't pony up his equity. They had more of a vested interest in this deal than he did. 

[42:53] His $4.1 billion acquisition included a whopping $612 million in fees, expenses, and financing charges. 

[50:00] The purpose of business is profit, not a platform for your ego

[53:24] Bob said, "Don't worry. If somebody lends a dollar, you take it. The ramifications can be handled later. There's always some way out." He goes bankrupt shortly thereafter. 


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