Focused Investing by Entrepreneurs Can Create Illiquid Wealth that Is Large But Precarious

The implications of the point made in the passages quoted below, were boldly drawn out by George Gilder in his article “The Enigma of Entrepreneurial Wealth.”

(p. B4) Wealth-X found that from July 2014 to July 2015, 45 percent of the ultrawealthy in the United States lost some part of their wealth; 11 percent lost more than half of it.

The reasons for the drop in wealth differed. But why so many ultra-wealthy people — defined as those with more than $30 million — lost so much of their wealth so quickly offers lessons in financial management, no matter how much money you have.
Sure, this group still has a lot of money. But those who lost a lot of money made similar mistakes: Too much of their money was tied up in one investment and too little of their money was in cash or some other liquid investment. And too often, they didn’t think enough about the likelihood that something could go wrong.
. . .
“A lot of people have this view that wealth is inherited,” said Mykolas Rambus, chief executive of Wealth-X. “That’s very much not the case.” Most are successful entrepreneurs who built fortunes, he said, “And most of their money is in privately held companies, not your Googles and Facebooks.”
He said 75 percent of the world’s wealth, when real estate is included, was privately held.
In the period examined by Wealth-X, overconcentration and illiquidity were big factors when someone lost a fortune.
Curtis James Jackson III, better known as the rapper 50 Cent, was worth $240 million in May 2014 and about $50 million last month, according to Wealth-X. The precipitous drop was caused almost entirely by the falling values of four of his companies, with interests ranging from clothing to film production. They declined to $7.2 million from $150 million in 12 months, according to Wealth-X’s research.
The same could be said for Mr. Charney, who was ousted from his company American Apparel, which later filed for bankruptcy protection. His share of the company was estimated at over $65 million in May 2014 and is now virtually worthless. At American Apparel’s height, in 2007, Forbes put Mr. Charney’s stake at $550 million.
“Every financial adviser in the United States says you’ve got to diversify,” Mr. Rambus said. “There is a lesson here about volatility and concentration. Rewind to the dot-com crash. There were plenty of folks who were seriously overexposed to tech and lost their shirts.”
But there’s a paradox here. Generally, it was overconcentration in one, illiquid company — whose value rose exponentially — that made people ultrawealthy in the first place.

For the full story, see:
PAUL SULLIVAN . “Wealth Matters; Reversal of Fortunes for Some Superrich.” The New York Times (Sat., DEC. 12, 2015): B4.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 11, 2015, and has the title “Wealth Matters; The Bad Fortune of Some Ultrawealthy People.”)

The Gilder article praised above, is:
Gilder, George. “The Enigma of Entrepreneurial Wealth.” Inc. 14, no. 10 (Oct. 1992): 161-64, 66 & 68.

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