Bob Chapman is sometimes credited with inventing the 13-D letter. You know, those sometimes funny, sometimes nasty missives hedge fund managers and other large investors sometimes attach to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosing they have acquired more than 5% of a company’s stock. The story is that Bob invented them when he got tired of the management of American Community Properties Trust ignoring him. He was looking for a way to effectively get the management’s attention when he discovered that the 13-D filing allowed him to attach basically whatever he wanted to the filing as an exhibit. And here’s the letter he attached.
This week’s New Yorker spends some time reading Chapman’s letters as literature. Here’s Ben McGrath on Chapman:
As with all genres, the 13D attack letter has its tropes: macho swagger about work ethic, war metaphors, regional stereotyping. Chapman’s contributions stand out, however, with a baroque style that is reminiscent of David Foster Wallace: heavy on footnotes (there are fourteen in one paragraph of a recent filing) and on wordplay (no alliteration is too much: “expeditious exercise,” “tutelary tactics,” “insidious ink”). In early June, Chapman fired off a letter (“Dear Denny”) to the C.E.O. of the Dallas-based software company Carreker, whom he called “Long Winder of the Year.” “I have nightmares involving my choking down gourmet tuna sandwiches and uninformed, ‘long-term’ business judgments, both being served in abundant quantity by you and your Texas ‘pardners,’ ” he wrote. (At one point, he referred to the C.E.O.’s brother “Jimbo,” whose “bloodline,” in a recent press release, had evidently “pressed the surface like a varicose vein.”)
Our favorite Chapman story is actually one of the oldest—how he got his first internship at Salomon Brothers. Here’s how the story was told in an issue of Trader magazine from earlier this year.
[That story and more links to good background on Chapman after the jump]
Here’s the story from Trader Magazine.
In the spring of 1987, 20-year-old Bob Chapman had arrived in the lobby of 555 California Avenue, the downtown San Francisco headquarters of Salomon Brothers. He was a wreck. His $99 suit was ripped; there was glass in his hair. Blood was soaking into the rag bound hastily around his thumb. He had come to personally hand in his résumé for the bank’s summer associate program. Bill Frasier, the Salomon broker who had been given the task of recruiting, gasped. “What the hell happened?”
Recalls Chapman, “I said, ‘You won’t believe this. I got in an accident on the way over.’” Chapman handed the broker his résumé. The bandage on his thumb slipped off and blood gushed out. There was blood everywhere.
A horrified Frasier ushered the candidate onto the trading floor and arranged for some rudimentary first aid. Patching himself up, the Berkeley undergrad recounted how he had slammed his street-illegal dirt bike into a car on the Bay Bridge en route to the office. After flying through the air and landing in the back of a pickup, he had insisted on being taken to Salomon Brothers’ offices rather than to the hospital. His story attracted quite a crowd. Among the listeners was managing director and Salomon partner Bill Thompson, who today runs the bond-fund giant PIMCO.
After hearing this tale, Thompson turned to Frasier and asked, “Is this guy for real?”
“I’m afraid so,” Frasier replied.
“Then hire him.”
The Daily Dose of Optimism blog actually has extensive excerpts from the Chapman article in Trader Magazine (which is sadly locked away behind an subscription wall). Read the whole thing.
13D [The New Yorker]