O brave new world,
That has such people in't! --Shakespeare, The Tempest
fans may have nodded knowingly when
Banc of America Securities
analyst Alan Braverman on Friday to head a new business-to-business division. But Wall Streeters in the know were left shaking their heads.
Frequent appearances by the glib, mustachioed Braverman on
made him one of the best-known analysts on the Street. And buy ratings in the red-hot Internet sector, packaged with a schtick he dubbed "Braving the Internet," helped boost his star further.
But his reputation was quite different among those who tried to follow his research -- and among co-workers who tried to get him on the phone. "We needed someone involved with these Internet companies, involved with banking," says one former co-worker. "And all this guy wanted to do was stay in New York and be on f---ing
Indeed, to many professional investors, Braverman's work was something of a joke. "
guy got another job?" says an analyst with one West Coast firm. "He should get a medal for failing upward." (Braverman wasn't available for comment.)
Braverman was hired by Banc of America Securities on March 2 in a ballyhooed move aimed at boosting the firm's efforts in the Internet sector. During a one-year stint at
Deutsche Bank Securities
, Braverman's Internet picks had been ranked No. 1 in "best returns" in the 1998
Wall Street Journal
All Star Analyst Survey. And Banc of America Securities had been without a star Internet analyst since David Readerman followed founder Thomas Weisel out the door to found a new firm, the now-thriving
Thomas Weisel Partners
At first it looked as if Braverman would be a hit: Three weeks into the job, he began coverage of nine Net stocks, and all saw a significant
pop. But things soon began to sour for Braverman at Banc of America Securities. He refused to move to the firm's San Francisco headquarters in the Transamerica building, preferring to work out of the firm's smaller New York office, say Banc of America insiders.
Big-money investors began to complain that his research was thin, while sales traders said they couldn't get him on the phone regularly to talk to large accounts. Worse still, people at Banc of America Securities say Braverman wasn't bringing in the kind of corporate finance deals that have been the bread-and-butter of the firm.
Twice a year, the sales-and-trading staff ranks each of the Banc of America Securities analysts. And of 78 analysts covering about 900 stocks globally, Braverman finished 77th. The only analyst who fared worse had been out on maternity leave. By Oct. 11, just two weeks after the firm's big
Growth Conference, Braverman was out of a job, having been allowed to resign, according to sources within the firm. His tenure had lasted a little over seven months.
But now Braverman has landed on his feet, thanks to the help of NBC Internet CEO Chris Kitze. "He's a stud. We hired a stud," says Kitze. "I've known him for about four or five years, and he's a guy I like. You can hire recruiters, but you can find some pretty good people if you just go through your Rolodex." Braverman had ingratiated himself to Kitze while covering
, NBC Internet's predecessor. (Braverman left Banc of America securities with a strong buy rating on the stock.)
Kitze concedes that Braverman didn't go through the same vetting other hires may have. "Having known someone for four years and having him as an analyst, you know him," says Kitze. "To some extent, you don't have to go through the same process."
Kitze has put Braverman in charge of a massive effort to make NBC Internet a player in the giant business-to-business Internet market. "We're trying to expand the thinking of this from a several-million-dollar opportunity to a several-billion-dollar opportunity," says Kitze. "Our job is to identify assets, early, that have the ability to appreciate rapidly. There is no one better than a Wall Street analyst."
Ironically, a rambling half-hour presentation at the
Banc of America Securities Growth Conference
may have been the nail in Braverman's coffin. In a packed presentation at the
Ritz Carlton Hotel
, Braverman spouted off remarkably thin analysis that had investors appalled. "
is going to be hot," he said in one such exchange. "Not every IPO might quadruple, so we might see a flight to quality," he said in another.
But in a fitting bit that might serve as his epitaph -- for both Banc of America and NBC Internet -- Braverman talked about the importance of quality management: "I would rather have a class-B idea and a class-A management, in part because of the rapid pace of change in this industry."
Cory Johnson files weekly from TheStreet.com's San Francisco Bureau. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he neither owns nor shorts individual stocks, although he owns shares of TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Johnson welcomes your feedback at
For more columns by Cory Johnson, visit his column