Jeff Gramm and the Making of an Activist

Barry Ritholtz is a Bloomberg View columnist. He founded Ritholtz Wealth Management and was chief executive and director of equity research at FusionIQ, a quantitative research firm. He blogs at the Big Picture and is the author of “Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy.”
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This week on our Masters in Business podcast we chat with hedge-fund manager Jeff Gramm about activist investing. He is the author of "Dear Chairman: Boardroom Battles and the Rise of Shareholder Activism."

Gramm, son of former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm, discussed looking without success for one of Warren Buffett’s early and unpublished activist letters that had been described in the best-selling Buffett biography, "The Snowball." Gramm wrote to Berkshire Hathaway, asking about it and was surprised to receive a package from Buffett a few weeks later. It contained a copy of the unpublished letter, along with permission to use it in his writing. Something similar occurred with Ross Perot and some of his unpublished letters to General Motors, where Perot was both a director and the largest shareholder at the time. It became clear that a book on activist investing was in the making.

Gramm also discussed his life before finance as guitarist for the indie band Aden. (Their eponymously named first album was deemed “an underrated classic" by Heave media). He describes the lessons you learn touring in a small vehicle in close proximity to three other guys, and how those experiences eventually led him to Columbia Business School.

You can hear the full interview, including the podcast extras, below, or by downloading the podcast at iTunesSoundcloud or Bloomberg. All of our earlier podcasts can be found iTunesSoundcloud and Bloomberg.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Barry Ritholtz at britholtz3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
James Greiff at jgreiff@bloomberg.net