After bingeing on financial news this week, one thing is clear: Wall Street sure ain't what it used to be.
Exhibit A is the tale of Jimmy John Liautaud, a sandwich tycoon with a million-watt smile who built a $2 billion-a-year business by skipping college and instead selling late-night munchies to college students. This is the type of guy you would think the old guard on Wall Street could have swiftly delivered unto equity capital markets on a platter, or at least wrapped in wax paper.
Yet Jimmy John seems to have gotten stage fright before his IPO road show and pulled the plug after two years of talks with bankers, as Bloomberg's Craig Giammona reported. He isn't alone. Loan Depot canceled its plans right before pricing, and Albertsons, Univision, Noble Midstream Partners and others have canceled or delayed recent offerings.
It's understandable to get spooked about an IPO when markets catch a dose of volatility and some deals are pricing below expected ranges, both of which have happened recently. But that's not what scared Jimmy John Liautaud off. He told Bloomberg that he's just simply not a Wall Street guy.
We beg to differ, since he clearly has the most important asset to succeed on Wall Street: The gift of gab, even if he does seem to talk almost entirely in food-service metaphors. He said he can't be messing around with IPOs when he's got 1,300 restaurants opening in the U.S. over the next five years: "I need to be here balancing all the dishes that are spinning."
He does sound a bit remorseful about it.
“I made the whole Thanksgiving dinner, and right before I was going to serve it, I threw it out,” he said.
So what, all those bookrunners could just eat subs for Thanksgiving, Jimmy? Anyway, there's another company in the hoagie-house league table that we'd guess would feel plenty comfortable on Wall Street, just judging from its name: Jersey Mike's Subs. If we were the underwriters we'd swap out the numbers in the pitch book and head on down to the Shore for some equity capital markets love and an Original Italian, done "Mike's Way" of course.
Elsewhere in the news this week there were more signs of the dwindling mojo of the financial world's old guard. Blythe Masters reportedly turned down her old JPMorgan pal Jes Staley's job offer of running Barclays's investment bank in order to chase dreams of a bitcoin unicorn. Morgan Stanley fired up the presses for a huge fixed-income pink-slip run. Hedge funds sang more redemption songs than a Bob Marley cover band. And the SEC is going after Steve Cohen again.
Luckily, for fans of old-school Wall Street mojo, there was one sign that the old guard is not ready to write down the value of its historical swagger anytime sign: JPMorgan reminded everyone that it owes its existence to Aaron Burr whupping Alexander Hamilton in a duel, MarketWatch reported.
And the Street can surely reclaim some lost mojo if it takes the suggestion for the Gadfly Trade of the Week. It pertains to a rivalry older than even Burr vs. Hamilton: Harvard vs. Yale.
Harvard's endowment, according to reporting by Michael McDonald, has been getting trounced by Yale by almost 400 basis points annually in the last five years.
You'd think landing an alumnus with one of history's greatest beards a job as a starting quarterback in the NFL would be enough for Harvard to claim victory over Yale, but apparently that's not enough. So the school summoned dozens of alumni financiers to campus in hopes of ending the funk.
But here's the problem: One of them was double Harvard sheepskin owner Bill Ackman.
Now, Ackman once had one of the financial world's strongest mojos. But lately it's looked like this:
Could there be a risk that this weakening mojo has rubbed off on Harvard? Of course! So until it recovers, the trade to make is to short Harvard and go long Yale. How do you place that trade? Who knows, but we're certain some whiz kid will figure out a way. Our guess is that it'll be someone from MIT, so restoring Wall Street's mojo may turn out to not be the best thing for the Ivy League's mojo.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.
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Michael P. Regan in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org
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