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We were shareholder activists once. For two years, we conducted an activist campaign at Tejon Ranch, the largest private landowner in California and a publicly traded company. We earned a 13% return — not bad by industry standards — but we failed to change the company much. We wrote about our adventure nearly a year ago in The Atlantic, but as we thought more about our interaction with Tejon Ranch’s managers, we realized there were valuable lessons that we wanted to share with the corporate leaders who are likely to confront the risk of [...]
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Mary Barra, Meg Whitman, Indra Nooyi: These are just three of the women who have successfully broken through the notorious “glass ceiling” to become CEOs of large public firms. Although women are still underrepresented at the top of corporations, there is growing interest in understanding whether men and women have different experiences as CEOs.
Our research examined whether male and female CEOs are treated differently by activist investors, who pressure firms to alter or change their strategic policies and decisions. We found that female CEOs fac [...]
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After being denounced for years for its dictatorship and destructive economic policies, Zimbabwe entered a new chapter in November 2017, following the military’s removal of president Robert Mugabe, who ruled the country for 37 years. Mugabe’s ouster and replacement with his one-time deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was the most significant development in the Southern African nation since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.
Mnangagwa is clear that he wants to rebuild the economy and start fresh with foreign businesses. This is promising for a market [...]
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Jeff Immelt ran GE for 16 years. He radically transformed the company from a classic conglomerate that did everything to one that focused on its core industrial businesses. He sold off slower-growth, low-tech, and nonindustrial businesses — financial services, media, entertainment, plastics, and appliances. He doubled GE’s investment in R&D.
In his Harvard Business Review article summing up his tenure, Immelt recalls that the two things that influenced him most were Marc Andreessen’s 2011 Wall Street Journal article “Why Sof [...]
In 2012, one of us — Gregor Gimmy, a California-based serial entrepreneur and former IDEO consultant — accepted a new role at BMW’s corporate R&D headquarters. Gimmy’s task was clear but highly demanding: to reimagine the way BMW innovates.
At the time, BMW had no dedicated, company-spanning unit to leverage the creative power of startups. This meant that the company was leaving out huge innovation potential — thousands of startups with billions of funding — that could help BMW innovate anything from core vehicle technology (batterie [...]
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Short-term corporate behavior is a major problem in the 21st century firm. Too many companies prioritize quarterly earnings over long-term innovation, human capital investment, and brand development, and many people believe short-term shareholders are to blame. The popular argument goes as follows: Short-term investors – those who hold onto a stock for less than, say, a year – aren’t interested in the company’s prospects beyond that year. So, if the company misses its quarterly earnings target, they sell their shares. The fear of such selling forces [...]
Few things are stable in economic life. Sixty years ago, Nicholas Kaldor laid down one seemingly immutable fact: The share of the national income taken by labor was constant. In other words, every year workers took home around two-thirds of the economic pie, and the owners of capital took the rest. The stability of this ratio was, as his fellow Cambridge economist Lord Keynes said, “something of a miracle.”
So much for miracles. In America, labor’s share has been on the decline for about three decades, and it has accelerated since the turn of the century. The fall has al [...]
Joe Bower and Lynn Paine “had me at hello” (to quote Jerry Maguire) with their new HBR article, “The Error at the Heart of Corporate Leadership.” Laying out their data, they find that long-term oriented companies create more financial value and more jobs. In fact, if more American companies were focused on the long term, they estimate, investors would have an additional $1 trillion, workers would have an additional 5 million jobs, and the country would have more than an additional $1 trillion in GDP.
I agree with their vision of a future in which more companies focus on [...]
On April 23, 2012, Adobe Inc. launched a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscription version of its key product line, Creative Suite, causing its net income to plummet by almost 35% percent the following year. Yet by April 2016 Adobe’s stock price had nearly tripled from its value four years earlier. Adobe’s radical transformation from a product-based business model to a service-based one raised eyebrows in the industry, with many software vendors now wondering how radically they should approach the SaaS model.
Due to the fast growth of the SaaS market and the high valuations of [...]
Activist investors who expect to raise returns by influencing strategic decisions are having a meaningful impact on many industries from consumer-packaged goods to aerospace and defense. And the odds that your company, or industry, may find itself targeted by an activist are going up. Activists launched 159 campaigns in 2015 focused on shareholder value maximization, nearly double the 88 that were launched the year before. If you are a senior executive in a company concerned about activists, you have two potential paths: take the defensive (and perhaps expected) posture of defending your curre [...]
Innovation has the potential to transform the investment industry. Small startup firms are already developing proprietary technologies — such as machine vision, deep learning, and other innovations —– that could help large investors evaluate opportunities and risks with far greater accuracy and efficiency than was previously possible. Yet the world’s largest funds are closed off from these innovations.
Research we have collected in recent months shows that pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, and endowments expect imminent breakthrough innovations in investm [...]
Having physical stuff just isn’t as great as it used to be.
At home, we’re Marie Kondo–ing our way to minimalism, buying experiences rather than things, and using services — Netflix, Spotify, Uber — rather than owning assets such as movies, music, and cars. The companies that provide those services and enable us to share what we have (insights, relationships, assets) with others not only are valued more highly by investors but also are relatively asset-light themselves. Amazon has only a handful of brick-and-mortar stores, Uber doesn’t manage a fle [...]