Goldman assembly lines; PE-backed talent agencies; WeWork members look for outs

Welcome to Wall Street Insider, where we take you behind the scenes of the finance team’s biggest scoops and deep dives from the past week.

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The main takeaway from bank earnings season can be summed up in just a few words. As Dakin Campbell reported, JPMorgan execs used some variation of “if” or “I don’t know” more than 12 times on the bank’s analyst call, in phrases like:If that scenario were to hold. If we avoid a prolonged downturn. If the economy gets worse.

But as firms set aside billions for expected loan losses while cautioning how difficult it is to quantify the unprecedented disruption caused by the coronavirus, they also turned in supercharged trading revenues – no surprise after we reported on monster trades during March’s market chaos.

And execs also gave the first glimpses of what a return to the office could look like. As Alex Morrell reported, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, who had coronavirus, said robust testing would be necessary and that he expected a staggered and concerted approach, potentially by industry or region, led by the government.

Some firms are meanwhile hitting pause on big real estate moves as they evaluate office needs for a post-coronavirus world. As Dan Geiger reported, Raymond James has put a decision to consolidate three locations into a new 160,000-square-foot New York office on hold.

There are plenty more excellent reads below. Wishing everyone a healthy and safe weekend.


Talent agencies are taking a hit

Bull Riding PBR Madison Square Garden

Private-equity giants including Silver Lake and TPG have amassed huge stakes in Hollywood talent agencies. And some of the biggest agencies have taken on significant debt diversifying their businesses. Endeavour, for one, bought Professional Bull Riders in 2015, followed by the Miss Universe pageant and Frieze, an art events and media company.

As Casey Sullivan and Alex Morrell report, these investments are taking a big hit as the coronavirus shutters production and events. And as the pandemic drags on, investors could be forced into a painful decision: Plow more money into these investments to keep them afloat, or save cash to deploy to opportunities with better prospects.

Read the full story here:

Hollywood’s top talent agencies may need a bailout from their PE backers as the coronavirus hammers big bets on live sports and studio production

WeWork members are looking for outs

Marcelo Claure wework 4x3-4

Meghan Morris and Dominick Reuter spoke with four entrepreneurs who are frustrated with paying WeWork for space that they can’t access due to the coronavirus. All said they feel squeezed to pay up even as media reports emerge about the company itself withholding April rent from landlords.

Meghan and Dominick explained how members finagled discounts, and how WeWork negotiations compared with policies at other coworking rivals. They also took a look at WeWork’s membership agreements to understand how the coworking giant has structured them.

Read the full story here:

WeWork members are getting fed up paying rent while the coworking giant tries to catch a break on its own leases. Here’s how 4 entrepreneurs are trying to get out.

How Goldman Sachs tackled a huge logistics challenge

Atte Headshot

Dakin Campbell got an inside look at Goldman’s massive remote-work mobilisation. The bank had to bulk purchase monitors, hard drives, and phones, put them together, and deliver these kits to employees’ homes. “There was a two-week period where nobody slept a wink,” Goldman CTO Atte Lahtiranta told Dakin.

As Robert Naccarella, Goldman’s head of enterprise tech operations, explained, the bank had to “become a mini version of Amazon, taking in requests, getting suppliers of all the parts, assembling it, and shipping it out through different methods of transport.”

Read the full story here:

Inside a 38,000-person remote work rollout at Goldman Sachs: sleepless nights, assembly lines, and an Amazon-like hub on a Manhattan trading floor

Seth Klarman’s fan club

Seth klarman graphic

Bradley Saacks talked to devoted fans of Baupost Group founder Seth Klarman, the “Oracle of Boston,” to understand why they track the publicity-shy billionaire investor’s every move, collect his annual letters, and pore over his decades-old book for new insights.

Klarman’s investing mantra was not always for the weak of will during years of steady market gains led by high-flying tech stocks. But value investing has roared back to be top of mind for many investors after the sharp stock market selloff and record volatility seen in March.

Read the full story here:

Seth Klarman has a rabid following that’s stuck with him through thick and thin. Here’s why fans of the publicity-shy billionaire investor are so obsessed.


Merrill Lynch Wealth Management is pausing interviews for its financial adviser training program. At any given time, 3,000 to 3,500 people participate in the rolling 3-1/2 year FA development program that the firm has run for more than 70 years.

Debt spotlight

Hedge funds and investing


Real estate