Paul Singer, founder of $34 billion activist firm Elliott Management, thinks people misunderstand his line of work.
Speaking at The Deal's 2018 Corporate Governance Conference: Understanding the Changing Agenda on Wednesday, Singer told TheStreet's founder Jim Cramer that, "Somewhere in the sands of time the defense bar has included in their franchise ... not only ideology but exaggeration, untruth, just factual misstatements."
Elliott's Singer has made a name for himself in launching hostile bids that drive companies to either sell themselves or take on other M&A options. The successful activist firm recently made a move into private equity, opening shop in Menlo Park, Calif., as Evergreen Coast Capital Partners.
"We're not designed to create a particular impression. The press writes what it wants and creates a narrative," Singer continued. Since its inception in 1977, his firm has come to carry a reputation on Wall Street as one of the hardest-hitting, lowest-tolerance activist firms around.
But as Singer sees it, that reputation is ill-informed. To him, activist investing is a means of helping the everyday shareholder wrangle in management and hold leaders accountable. "It's really hard for shareholders to make any kind of a difference," Singer said. "There are forces like Elliott and a bunch of other people who have gotten organized to provide some counteractive force."
Singer argues against the perception that activist investing is a short-term fix without long-term sight.
"So many things that people like us are engaged in are not short-term fixes," Singer said.
"It is absolutely true that the addressing by us is done ... in a very layered fashion," he said. "We spend a lot of money; we devote a lot of time and manpower and womanpower," Singer said.
And as Singer and Elliott keep racking up wins firms can't just pretend their problems will go away once activists take notice.
There's no longer an option for targets to hear a "knock on the door" and pretend no one is home, Singer explained. "They know that Elliott has done the work ... they know we're not dealmakers, not bomb throwers. They know we have money and we have energy," he added.
"Some of these fights, these situations get heated," Singer said, adding that there have been times Elliott regretted its tactics after the fact.
But, "Sometimes you are knocking on an open door," Singer said.
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