Is the Apollo IPO A Consolation Prize or A Conflict Story?

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One storyline that is clearly emerging from the various private equity and hedge fund IPO rumors and reports is that the investment banks are gunning hard for this business. And they’re not waiting around for hedge funds to decide to go public—they’re pitching, even pushing, the idea of launching a public offering on the firms.
“All over Wall Street, bankers are pushing private-equity shops to move quickly, reminding them that market conditions could deteriorate and diminish investor appetite for any offering,” Wall Street Journal reporters Katie Kelly and Robin Sidel write in today's paper. “In this case, however, it isn't clear whether bankers are more concerned about a capital-markets slowdown or getting a high-profile deal to the finish line before rival firms attempt to do the same.”
A sign of how ultra-competitive the investment banks have become for this business is the public attention paid to the fact that Goldman Sachs was not included as an underwriter for the public offering of Blackstone partnership equity. There was a lot of speculation about why one of the premier banks on Wall Street (yes, yes, Broad Street, we know, “Wall Street” is a metaphor or a synecdoche here) was left out of a deal that seemed to include every other bank on the Street. Was it because Goldman “called bullshit” on the Blackstone IPO, as some said? Or was it personal animosity between the higher-ups at Blackstone and some prominent Goldman personages? Or—and we’re sorry there are so many “ors” here but that’s just the way the world is—was it that Blackstone was hesitant to let Goldman—which competes with Blackstone in many of its businesses—do much digging into its books in preparation for the offering.
If the reports of an Apollo IPO—a story broken by CNBC’s Charlie Gasparino yesterday and carried several millimeters forward in today’s Wall Street Journal and New York Post—are correct, then it seems we have the answer: Goldman couldn’t take the Blackstone business because it was already working on the offering of its competitor. Now Goldman is famous for finding creative ways to cleverly untie seemingly Gordian knots of conflicts—but underwriting two competing private equity IPOs might have been too going too far.
That’s the story as we’ve heard it. But the boys at Deal Journal have an alternate reading of the Apollo story. They write that the Apollo IPO isn’t so much of what kept Goldman out of the Blackstone underwriting syndicate—it’s a consolation prize for the banks, a bit of business they apparently pushed to get after being shut out by Blackstone. Of course, Deal Journal has been a big proponent of the Blackstone In Competition With Goldman theory, and this take would allow them to leave that notion in place. The Apollo Conflict theory, in fact, undermines the whole idea that Goldman was shut-out.
Of course, we’re probably just counting our eggs while they are still in the bush. Or however the saying goes.

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