LOL at this new WSJ article on Apollo's Culture…

Three years ago, as part of an effort to craft more of a typical corporate hierarchy, Apollo named James Zelter and Scott Kleinman-at the urging of Mr. Harris-to the newly created roles of co-presidents. However, it has been a challenge for Mr. Harris to learn how to let them do their jobs without intervening, people close to Apollo say.

Some of those people remain unconvinced of Mr. Harris's ability and willingness to take steps required to modernize the firm. He regularly dominated investment committee meetings, hammering young analysts about their financial models, former employees say. Not replying right away to a Saturday morning email from Mr. Harris would yield a response 10 minutes later of "?". And he frustrated people with his iterative decision-making process, sometimes taking a year to decide not to do something.

Any Apollo bros can confirm how much of a dick this guy is.   Sounds like a loser (if I was a billionaire I would not be getting in the model weeds with analysts or emailing them on Saturdays)

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Comments (57)

Oct 31, 2020 - 11:52pm

Also forgot to quote this gem:

""Some people play golf. Some people play tennis. I work," Mr. Harris said in a rare interview in September-"

Imagine being a billionaire only to more.

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Oct 31, 2020 - 11:53pm

The guy does sound like a dick, but honestly, I wouldn't mind working for a high level person who gets in the weeds. In my professional experience, most of my managers have been people who have no fucking clue what is going and yet collect millions while me and other grunts do most of their work. Would you prefer that?

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Nov 1, 2020 - 7:45am

If they're both going to make you do the same amount of work, I'd much rather go with the hardo. Personally, it wears me down mentally to be constantly asked to perform ridiculous tasks / model scenarios by clueless people. In my opinion, working hard is less tough when you're told to do meaningful things, but maybe that's just me.

Side note: there is also real value in learning from someone that knows their stuff.

Nov 3, 2020 - 7:33am

IMO the ideal balance is someone that skews much more to the hands off side.  It usually means that they trust their team and let them run with things, and understand what their actual job is.

Obviously no one wants a disengaged bumbling idiot as a boss who can't get out of their own (and your way), but the worst is someone who doesn't understand their job description and how to scale their own and their team's time and effort.  It's easier to manage a disengaged bumbling idiot than it is a brutal micromanager.

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Nov 3, 2020 - 8:03am

The more I think about it the more nuisances there are here. You want someone in the weeds but not a micromanager checking your sources etc.  They don't need to be in every detail but also should not be a bumbling idiot who doesn't have a clue on what's happening.

Nov 1, 2020 - 6:46am

The reason he's a billionaire is because he's willing to jump into the weeds and get tactical...

Also nobody with a billion dollars is working because they have to.

Lifestyle isn't that materially different than someone with $50mm or $100mm.

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Nov 1, 2020 - 10:00am


The reason he's a billionaire is because he's willing to jump into the weeds and get tactical...

Also nobody with a billion dollars is working because they have to.

Lifestyle isn't that materially different than someone with $50mm or $100mm.

Weird because the article states the other two founders of Apollo are not willing to get into the weeds like that and prefer to delegate. And they are billionaires too.

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Nov 1, 2020 - 2:00pm

That's because they have this co-founder. It's clearly his thing. 

Not sure how many businesses you've built or founding teams you've interacted with but it's a pretty common dynamic.

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Most Helpful
  • Principal in PE - LBOs
Nov 5, 2020 - 8:22am

Let's be serious, the reason he is a billionaire is because he got a call from Leon and Mark 30 years ago.  Everyone at Apollo knows the special sauce comes from Leon (the ruthlessly aggressive dealmaker) and Mark Rowan (the aspie financial wizard/savant).  The fact that LyondellBasell is being put on Josh's ledger is indicative of the firm trying to pad Josh's resume to over-state his contribution and bridge successorship now that Leon is radioactive; they can only do that by suggesting that Josh has had some inimitable role in laying the stones that became Apollo.  But let's be serious, everyone at Apollo up and down the organization know that without Josh, Apollo would be exactly where it is today.

That's the main cause of the well known tension between the 3 co-founders -- it is highly dysfunctional, mom and dad haven't slept in the same bed in years.  Leon and Mark are the real founders.  Mark knows Josh is basically an over-payed VP and adds very little (billionaire caliber) value.  Josh knows that he's inferior, and so he's aligned himself with the bigger founder (Leon) by being his errand boy.  Mark and Leon butt heads because Leon views Josh as his lieutenant and so he looks out for him.

The reason Josh is such a hardo is because he grew up at Apollo knowing he has no real reason to exist there as a co-founder, so he's had to try 10x as hard to inject himself into the middle of everything, lest he become dispensable.

Whenever you have a founding team >1, it's typically very clear that 1-2 of them are the real founding visionaries, and then there's a hanger on that has carved out a niche by being a thorn in everyone else side.  Josh tries to be essential to the other co-founders by making them feel like he does all the dirty work/heavy lifting so that they can fly above it all.

  • Intern in PE - Growth
Jan 26, 2021 - 12:51pm

Interesting that Marc just got the nod to be CEO over Josh, despite it being Josh that has had his hands in every aspect of the business

Nov 2, 2020 - 9:34pm

I see Paul Allen earns his keep to always stay a step ahead of the Batemans... This is the only relevant comment +1

Ugh the FBI still quotes the Dow... -Matt Levine
  • Principal in AM - Other
Nov 3, 2020 - 9:18am

These three - Leon, Josh and Mark, they are just cut differently. I actually believe they genuinely like working and probably not much else. Compare them to the other PE billionaires of their era. Unlike Steve Schwarzmann, there are no end of career books or names plastered on Chinese universities. Unlike David Rubenstein, there are no public talks or interviews or buying stuff like the Magna Carta. Unlike Henry Kravis, there are no public art collections and such. Unlike Robert Smith, there are no playboy wives or grand gestures of wiping off student debt. At least not to the same extent.

Other than Leon, you'd have to really dig around to see a proper public interview with Josh or Mark. Obviously, all three are billionaires and don't need to work anymore. The fact that unlike BX or KKR, Apollo had such a hard go at succession planning tells you all there is to know about these three.

Frankly, I'd much rather be at a place in my 60s where I am working because it's something I want to do and because I am genuinely fucking great at it - like these three are at their jobs. It's not just Josh; Leon and Mark are also known to be more involved in the investment decision making process at Apollo than other founders usually are. That, and their Drexel legacy and culture, is what makes APO such a brutal place to work.

Being deep in insta models will be fun for a while, sure, but the problem with extraordinary wealth at an early point in life, especially if you are not born into it, is that it will lead to an emptiness that no amount of partying, friends or models can fill. Usually, work and a good family, if you are lucky enough to have that, can make a dent in that hole.

Nov 3, 2020 - 10:03am

Zero chance harris spends adequate time with family if he's firing off ("?") Emails on Saturday and first one in last to leave in office.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Ind
Nov 5, 2020 - 12:34am

This is a good narrative but misses some details that change it entirely. Harris owns multiple sports teams and is an avid fan. Quick googling will show that Rowan owns a few restaurants. Rowan's family office also does some off the beaten path type stuff (they've spent a lot of time looking at cannabis lending, maybe not off the beaten path for an FO). The big difference I've noticed (uninformed outsider) is that the other PE firms have "public personas" which are pretty common in investment management. David Rubenstein is the fundraising guy like Schwarzman. They build a team of saavy people around them (and are sharp themselves). Tony James and Jon Gray at BX, I think Bill Conway at Carlyle. Howard Marks is another example, most people at Oaktree will tell you Bruce Karsh is the genius investor at Oaktree but Marks is the one everyone knows because of his infamous memos. 

Succession planning is frankly not needed at Apollo because the founders are generally just younger. Rowan and Harris are both under 60 vs Schwarzman is over 70. The Apollo founders (ex-Leon) were all pretty young when they founded it vs. the other megafunds which were usually founded after the founders had another career (Rubenstein in politics, Schwarzman at Lehman).

The main takeaway here is that despite the stories we like to tell ourselves about what kind of people become billionaires etc., there isn't really a narrative, lot of different kinds of people end up like that for different reasons through a combination of hard work, incredible intelligence, and luck.

  • Principal in PE - LBOs
Nov 5, 2020 - 4:39pm

Yup, OP clearly overfitting a lazily constructed narrative.

Leon owns tons of art, probably more than Steve and Harry.  He also threw a ridiculous b-day party a few years back with Elton John and scantily clad fitness model waitstaff dressed as Greek goddesses and Roman soldiers.  The name of the firm is fucking Apollo, the Greek god known to be as powerful as the sun itself.  These guys wouldn't know subtly if it fell out of the sky.  Not judging, it's their money to spend how they like, but painting Apollo as the merchants of modest is ludicrous.

There's tons of silent founders, it all comes down to personal preference and desire to be in the limelight.  Bruce Karsh at Oaktree, Bill Conway at Carlyle, Peter Peterson at Blackstone (until his death), and the list goes on.

Robert Smith is no where in the same ballpark as these guys.  He's new money in the PE world.  These guys have all been around since the 70s.  They got the real tomfuckery out of their system back in the 80s, now they try to give the appearance of elder statesmen lest the Pennsylvania Firefighter and Teachers Pension get their panties in the twist.  Robert Smith is still sowing his wild oats.

Nov 13, 2020 - 10:23pm

Apollo is the most prestigious PE, it's worth all the long hours, there you really make millions and some associates are really rich. I met one in London and he had Gucci loafers, they're like £400, it's crazy how rich they are, he also lives in a very nice apartment

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