Jack Ma from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd ($BABA), welcome to the club. Every CEO in America hates the 90-day clock – the point when you must stand in front of shareholders, and any incorrect or utterance that is outside the analysts’ scope moves your stock price. More times than not, the moves will be to the downside due to a CEO sticking his foot in his mouth, but that’s OK. After all, it's part of the game, along with the many other advantages of being the CEO, including the fabulous wealth that comes with it.
Further still, as CEO, you get to learn all sorts of cool stuff – like how to sandbag earnings, how to tweak the dividend, when to issue more stock and when to have your bankers put together a shelf offering. Anyone would hate being in front of a discerning audience four times per year (except maybe freaks like Steve Jobs – and even he wrestled with the analysts on Wall Street who castigated him at every turn). In fact, even in his early years at Apple, Inc. ($AAPL), then at NeXT Computer, then back to Apple after they bought NeXT, he railed with the analysts on every call and in every Q&A, until Jobs finally turned things into more of a large presentation, escaping drill down scrutiny.
He went on to run Apple and Pixar simultaneously, how would you like to have two ninety-day clocks chasing you? There is not enough carrot juice in the world to stave off the vulture analysts who (it seems) are put on this earth to bother and annoy you. This comes with the job, and Ma knows this. He is playing to his audience, trying to make good copy.
Being CEO is Fantastic…Except When it Isn’t
Being the boss (a public company CEO) is the pinnacle of capitalism, it is the American Dream rolled into a laptop, conference calls, board meetings, assistants and crazy travel, and it is the coolest job in the world. You get to basically be a rock star – you get to hire thousands of people and you have the opportunity to potentially make life better for everyone.
I think what Jack meant to say earlier today was that in 2015, with so many private company valuations for unlisted shares happening amid today's crowd funder mentality, those lucky dogs who are still private get to reap the benefits of a billion dollar valuation without having to report to the 90-day clock. What he means is that Sarbanes Oxley has finally caught up to the IPO calendar, and it is likely to scare the exchanges and brokerage houses to death, because if you can stay private, get your money out of your idea and get money in your account without scrutiny in the age of social media, all of us would probably travel that road.
Jack Ma has no choice here – he must stand on the carpet for the next 3-5 years, until he gets a succession plan in place. If he decides to go back to teaching, his personal wealth would take a huge prohibitive hit, he won't do that to shareholders, and he won't do that to his pocketbook, so settle in and face the Q&A, Jack. At some point you may even find yourself wearing all-black clothing, holding a clicker in your hand and having fun while orchestrating a world-class presentation – after all, it's been done before.
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