Aug 12

Stephen Murray, Private Equity Investor and Benefactor

Stephen “Steve” Murray, private equity investor and benefactor, was born August 2, 1962, and was raised in New York. After graduating from high school, he attended and obtained a degree in Economics from Boston College in 1984. He joined Manufacturers Hanover Corporation and obtained his master’s degree in business administration from Columbia Business School, Manhattan, New York City, in 1989.

Mr. Murray began his career as a member of the credit analyst training program at MH Equity Corporation in 1989. He held positions in investments in other institutions including Chemical Venture Partners, Chase Capital Partners, and J.P. Morgan Partners. Known for his patience, he was very proficient.

Mr. Stephen Murray co-founded CCMP Capital, a global private equity firm and a 2006 break off from JPMorgan Chase, to avoid disagreements with the bank’s customers. Mr. Murray was eventually named its CEO. His investment concentration was in consumer, retail, and services; financial services; and healthcare infrastructure. CCMP focuses on consumer/retail, industrial, healthcare, and energy, and has invested in 1-800-Flowers, Cabella’s, Quiznos Sub, and Triad Hospitals. With talented and educated staff, CCMP has been successful. Mr. Murray, due to health reasons, left the firm earlier this year, and Mr. Greg Brenneman assumed his duties after his departure. He was with the firm for 16 years and served on the boards of Infogroup Inc., Jetro JMDH Holdings, LHP Hospital Group, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and Strongwood Insurance Holdings, among others.

Stephen Murray was married to Tami Monti, and together they had four children, all boys. He was a generous supporter of many organizations, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Metro New York, the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County, Stamford Museum located in Connecticut, Boston College, and Columbia Business School. He was 52 years old at the time of his death.

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Aug 08

Kenneth Griffin’s Citadel Braces For Increased Market Volatility

Most individual investors and some of the hedge funds that tried to play it safe after the 2008 market disaster. Most of those investors didn’t Citadel’s Ken Griffin Leaves 2008 Tumble Far Behind, and Kenneth Griffin would be around to talk about market volatility with the Wall Street Journal in 2015. Griffin and his high profile hedge fund crashed hard seven years ago, and most financial investors did too. But Griffin had something the other hedge funds didn’t have. He had the will to continue to gamble on assets that no one else wanted. Griffin expressed his relentless desire to the New York Times when he said: “Business is business. I don’t manufacture cars, but we do manufacture money.” From the look of things, Citadel does manufacture money, and Griffin might be a modern day Henry Ford.

Hedge fund managers are known for taking risks on borrowed money, but Griffin took that concept to another level when he started buying distressed assets from Enron Corp. and Amaranth LLC. That move was brilliant, and Citadel became a hedge fund that turned risky investments into big returns. Griffin and the Citadel stayed on top through the early years of the 21st century, but when 2008 came knocking on Griffin’s door, Griffin lost $8 billion in the blink of an eye. Hedge funds started dropping like flies. Some funds with big investors rode out the crisis by taking a low-risk approach, but Griffin didn’t want to rebound that way. When other hedge funds were keeping their investment strategy safe to soothe the bruised wallets of colleges and pension funds, Griffin was gulping down undervalued, risky assets. The rest of the story as the Wall Street Journal said is “pure Kenneth Griffin brilliance.”

Citadel is back on top again, and the Citadel has $26 billion in assets to prove it. The company recently invited Bill Clinton to speak at Griffin’s 46th birthday party, and the former president jumped at the chance. Some say he jumped at the $250,000 speaking fee rather than the tribute to Ken, but that is pure competition envy talking. Clinton knows that Citadel commodities operations would be the largest around the globe if it were a separate investment vehicle. There’s always a chance that part of the company would spin off from the parent company, but there’s more talk of a public offering in the wind in 2016, so that move might not happen.

The big question is, what does Griffin think of the current investment market? Griffin told the Wall Street Journal that everyone is talking about liquidity. Griffin thinks if the Federal Reserve raises interest rates, the U.S. could be in for a period of market volatility. Griffin said the banks have pulled back from their previous role as liquidity providers, but new liquidity providers have appeared and are doing what the banks did before the 2008 debacle. The banks are protecting themselves, according to Griffin and as an investor he understands their position. Today nonbank broker-dealers are aggressively competing for roles as liquidity providers. Ever since 2014, nonbank participants continue to use tight bid-ask spreads while the banks widened bid-ask spreads. Banks will even withdraw from the market if they don’t feel comfortable, according to Griffin. Griffin doesn’t blame the big banks for trying to maintain their market position. He just wants to build a level playing field across all fixed-income markets that increase competition and innovation.

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Aug 04

Adam Sender’s Vast Art Collection

In theory, anyone should be able to establish an art collection with enough free time and money on their hands. However, it takes much more knowledge and experience to establish an art collection based on excellent choices over the course of many years. Adam Sender, a licensed, high-risk hedge fund investor, has also entered the world of contemporary art and created for himself and others a vast collection of valuable artworks. Although his artwork investments become a part of his own collection, he has held exhibitions in order to share pieces of art with the world.

To Adam Sender, it is important that the art pieces in his collection are not only aesthetically appealing, but also intellectually encouraging. Supposedly, although it is clear that finding the greatest piece of art in a room full of them is not easy, Sender has exceptionally keen intuition and intelligence when it comes to buying artworks. Since the late 1990s, has been building up his collection of art pieces without simply throwing random art into the mix. Every piece in his collection complements the others and makes for an engaging observation experience.

Back in late 2011, Sender and his wife held their first exhibition in their Miami home during the annual art fair Art Basel Miami Beach. Sender Collection curator Sarah Aibel set up about seventy pieces of art within the household, some of which had never been viewed publicly in the United States. In the exhibition, many young and well-known artists were featured, including Frank Benson, Sarah Lucas, and Mike Kelley.

Later, Sender put four hundred of his works, created by about one hundred thirty-nine artists, up for auction through Sotheby’s. The portion of his collection managed to bring Sender in over seventy million dollars from sales.

Through collecting, selling, and donating artworks, Sender has earned himself a spot on top. As he has certainly found his niche in finances and art, he hopes to continue his art collecting career for many years to come.

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Jul 31

Sergio Cortes: Bringing Michael Jackson Back to Life

To inspire impersonators a celebrity much be popular and unique enough to be recognizable instantly. This includes Elvis with his sideburns and swagger, the long tresses of Cher and the dance moves, sequins and hairstyle of Michael Jackson. Each of these icons have shaped popular culture and are as famous and well-loved as ever. To impersonate a celebrity of this magnitude, the individual must be a fan themselves. Many hours will be required to perfect their voices, mannerisms and appearance.

 

Sergio Cortes has reached that pinnacle of performance. As the top Michael Jackson impersonator in Brazil, possibly the world, he is wowing thousands with his awe-inspiring abilities. Many impersonators are restricted to copying a physical appearance and maybe adding a few moves or mimicking their speaking voice. What makes Cortes unique is that he is the complete package.

 

To honor his idol, Cortes has spent hours learning full routines and adapting his own behaviors to match those of Michael Jackson. Those who have been lucky enough to see him perform live on stage can easily forget this is not actually the Prince of Pop. Cortes incorporates dance routines, background dancers and light shows to create a genuine Jackson experience from start to finish.

 

Just like the real Michael, Cortes has fans who fill stadiums to cheer on his performance. Avid devotees wait in line for autographs and photo opportunities with the performer. As a youth, his sculpted cheekbones and dark hair and eyes gave him an essence similar to Jackson’s but it is with careful makeup skills and a detailed wardrobe that helps him to now portray an illusion so complete, it is as if Michael has come back to life.

 

As more of the world discovers the talents of Sergio Cortes, his fan base continues to grow ever larger. His abilities are overshadowing other impersonators and making him the choice of many Michael Jackson fans.

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Jul 29

A Company That Lifts Up Humanity

Qnet is a very well known direct selling company around the world. Qnet is the main direct selling company in all of Asia. The thing that sets Qnet apart from the rest of the direct selling companies around the world is that it has products that are very meaningful and useful and the offer to a diverse market of individuals all around the world.

Qnet is a company that thrives on diversity. The founders of Qnet wanted to make a company that was different. They wanted to make a company that was made not only for their products, but also for their employees and for their clients. These founders were inspired by the work of Gandhi. Everyone is familiar with the Humanitarian work that Gandhi did. Gandhi’s inspiration in life was people. He truly believed in the importance of the oneness of humanity, and Qnet follows that theory. Their motto is RYTHM which stands for raise yourself to help mankind. This motto helps to empower their employees to be able to help others to succeed in order to have a successful business. Qnet realizes that without a diverse team of individuals working together for one goal that their business will not have success.

Each and every individual that works as a distributor at Qnet is working in harmony with the company to achieve financial independence. Qnet desires to help its distributors to be able to achieve success on an individual basis and intern make the company a more successful one. The employees that work at Qnet are from more than 30 different countries and their customers are for more than 100. The employees at Qnet are encouraged to not only be distributors of their unique and useful products, but to also use their products in order to be able to truly reap the benefits that Qnet has to offer. Qnet wants to help each and every individual that uses their products or that works for the company to find purpose in life.

In reality there are not many companies like Qnet. They are a company that works for people and enables them to live a more rich and satisfying life.

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Jul 23

The Kind Business Leader, Joseph Bismark

Today I came across a heart-warming article of a business leader who lives his life to serve others, this man is Joseph Bismark. I found the article on Citizen Shame, a great place to find interesting articles to read in your spare time. 

Joseph Bismark is the co-founder of QI limited and contributes to the RHYTHM foundation; a social partner of the QL group. The QL group and the RHYTHM foundation set out to better the wellness and health of people. 
I found Joseph Bismark’s unique childhood to play a pivotal role in how he runs his business. He left the comfortability of his home at the tender age of nine to learn the teachings of Vedism in a Hindu ashram, found in the Philippine mountains. After reaching spiritual enlightenment at age 17, he set out to build a business conglomerate carrying the principles of Vedism he learned training as a monk. 
Joseph Bismark’s humble beliefs were highly inspiring to me. He considers his employees as the reason behind QL limited’s success. He highly values the people who work for him and treats them with respect. One of his core business values is centered around morals and ethics within the workplace. 
Joseph Bismark understands that success is something you have to constantly work at in order to achieve and maintain. Therefor he is always pushing himself to work harder and help his employees face challenges head on. 
After hearing Joseph Bismark’s uplifting success story I also want to work hard and help people!
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Jul 22

FreedomPop for the People

Phone contracts, overage fees, throttling, and termination fees are just some of the painful “benefits” of dealing with the big nationwide carriers. And even with some carriers eliminating contracts and some fees, they’re still making that up with often expensive plans that seem to offer less for more. FreedomPop enters the competitive market by offering 100 percent free mobile phone and high-speed Internet service. A recent article on Fortune discusses the company’s success in raising $30 million in a recent round of funding.

Funding the Freedom
FreedomPop is a young company launched in 2012 by founders Stephen Stokols and Steven Sesar. In just a few years, the company has exploded to over 1 million subscribers by the third quarter 2015 and a valuation in the hundreds of millions. Other larger companies have also noticed this meteoric rise and have even offered to acquire the innovative startup. Investors such as Partech Ventures and Skype founder NiklasZennstom’s venture firm Atomico contributed to almost $50 million in capital in the last three years. FreedomPop’s rise are attributed to providing value to consumers and smart business strategies.

Free Yet Profitable
So how does FreedomPop offer such amazing value for zero dollars? It all starts with the Free plan and then additional value-added and profitable services. The free service is very simple for users by using existing Sprint compatible phones or FreedomPop’s selection of Samsung or HTC devices. Free users receive monthly packages consisting of 500 megabytes of data, 200 talk minutes, and 500 text messages.

FreedomPop’s financial success comes in with their combination of value-added services and their smart decisions on business costs. Some of their additional offerings include bigger service packages, phone insurance, and data rollover with reasonable costs ranging from $3 to $10 a month. Although smaller than the bigger carriers, FreedomPop’s profits are sizeable thanks to being a MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) which means they don’t own a wireless infrastructure and instead buys their capacity wholesale from Sprint. Combine that with a lack of customer acquisition costs and you have a winning formula.

FreedomPop might not be the first offering this type of service, but their innovative approach to providing Freedom for the people is something we can all benefit from.

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Jul 20

What does the Suicide Squad trailer mean for the future?

The chain of events was predictable. Warner Brothers brings a trailer for next August’s Suicide Squad to Comicon and, before showing it, asks the fans like James Dondero to please not post it anywhere. They show the trailer, the crowd freaks out, and a day later, a grainy copy is all over social media.
The studio is aghast. They say that this was just for the fans in attendance, and there are no plans to release the trailer to a wider audience. Two days later, they put a pristine HD copy up for anyone with access to Youtube to enjoy along with a statement expressing how sad they are that their trust in the fans has been broken.
And now people are wondering what does this mean for the future of advance footage and trailers at Comicon? The simple answer is: absolutely nothing. Warners got exactly what they wanted – people talking about a movie for three days that was previously off most people’s radar. Plus, in most cases, the trailer got viewed at least twice, once with the poor copy and once again to actually make out what was happening. Warner Brothers surprise at the leaked trailer is the same shock that Claude Rains had to discover gambling in their own classic Casablanca.
Next year, be ready for more advance footage followed by hand wringing when it gets out.

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Jun 30

Apple Will Win With Exclusive Content

One might say that Apple stole the idea of exclusive content in music streaming from Jay-Z. After all, he was the one that was trying to get exclusive content on his Tidal website. He ran into some trouble with Beyonce content though because she is an artist on the Sony record label. Apple, however, is taking exclusive content to a new level by connecting with several artists.

Pharrell has a new single that will exclusive to Apple. Brad Reifler told that he performed it at the BET Awards on Sunday, but it will not be streaming anywhere else by Apple. Taylor Swift was pursued by Spotify, but their relationship ended abruptly when Swift pulled her entire catalog (including the new “1989” album) from Spotify. It appears that Apple did a much better job of courting her because she is allowing this company to stream the album. This comes as another blow to Jay-Z because at one time Taylor said she would be available for Tidal, but Jay-Z obviously dropped the ball in pursuing her.

For Apple it is easy to get the stars to commit to exclusive content because this company has billions of dollars to spend. Drake is on as a DJ for Apple Radio with a $19 million dollar contract. It would not be a surprise to see his content released exclusively on Apple. Dr. Dre is also making “The Chronic” available through Apple music streaming.

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Jun 29

Chelsea goalkeeper moves to Arsenal

The majority of English soccer teams have returned to pre season training this week and are looking to make changes to their squads as players return from vacations around the world. The BBC reports one of the longest rumored moves in English soccer has finally taken place with Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech finally making the short move across London to rivals Arsenal. Cech’s future has been a major source of rumor and speculation since the Czech number one lost his place in the Chelsea team to Thibaut Courtois for the eventual Premier League champions last season.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has long been an admirer of Cech and was linked with a move for the goalkeeper in the January transfer window. Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho had originally wanted the transfer of Cech to arsenal to include England midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain moving to the Stamford Bridge club in a player exchange. However, the deal has eventually been completed for the 33 year old goalkeeper for an undisclosed fee and no players moving to Stamford Bridge from Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium home. Madison Street Capital is hoping that it works out well. Cech is classed as one of the world’s top goalkeepers and appeared more than 400 times for Chelsea during his 11 seasons at the club.
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