More negative press on Apollo

From Matt Levine this morning.  Does anyone have access to the full BI article?

Apollo

A few years back, there were a lot of stories about how the big investment banks were becoming nicer places to work. "Take the weekend off," a lot of banks told their junior employees, "or at least, like, 36 contiguous hours off most weekends, from Friday night until Sunday morning, unless of course, you are on a live deal." As a humanitarian and a lazy former investment banker, I thought these initiatives were nice, but they troubled me a bit. They do not fit the stereotype of how high finance works. The trade-off is supposed to be (1) you work all the time but (2) you get rich and become a master of the universe.

Of course, it was possible - quite reasonable, really - that today's young people do not want that trade-off, and would prefer to have a more normal work-life balance while making a bit less money and mastering a bit less of the universe. But it was also possible that the real driving force behind the change was that the banks could no longer offer that trade. Banks were still hungover from the financial crisis, the regulation was crimping their ability to make a lot of money (and pay a lot of it to their people), and the tech industry was booming and seemed more lucrative and appealing to ambitious young people. The financial industry might have been constrained by outside circumstances to change its pitch to "come to investment banking, you won't make a lot of money but at least you'll get 36 hours off many weekends." I don't know that that's a very good pitch!

You don't read so many stories like that anymore. Instead, we talked the other day about how Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer David Solomon wants his bankers to spend more time in the office and stop going out for lunch. Rough for them, but honestly kind of a good sign? There are deals to be done! There is money to be made! Get back in there and make it! The old trade-offs are back; finance is once again where the action is, and if you want to be part of that action the only choice is to take way, way too much of it.

It's not an investment bank, but this Insider story about private-equity giant Apollo Global Management Inc., whose "hard-driving culture is extreme even by Wall Street standards," hits some of the same notes. It sounds terrible! 

Associates are often handed assignments by executives late in the day, with the expectation that they are to forgo a night's sleep to prepare materials for early the next morning. Associates assigned to support a deal could expect to live without a full night of rest for weeks on end. One source who recently left Apollo said they often felt drunk because of sleep deprivation. 

One executive made it known that he hadn't taken a personal trip until he was promoted to principal - a point that associates took to mean that they shouldn't either, according to one Apollo associate who heard the remarks firsthand.

This person, and an employee who left the firm recently said that associates have coped with the work stresses by relying on a dark sense of humor to get them through the day, joking about everything from the perceived incompetence of superiors to more extreme statements, like saying they would rather kill themselves than keep working.  

Apollo also has a part-of-the-weekend off rule - no calls or meetings between Friday evening and Saturday evening, "unless it is urgent or related to a live deal" - but it doesn't seem to have done much good:

Associates told Insider that partners at the firm simply compensated for the communications hiatus by piling on extra work on Saturday night. Within a month, it seemed as though the mandated break had disappeared, said two associates, one of whom has since left.

And you get vacation time unless you don't:

Three other current executives said that the firm encourages employees to take two weeks off in August and another two weeks off in December. Two of these executives acknowledged that associates often weren't actually granted this time in practice if they were pulled into a deal and that breaks, for anyone, had been hard to come by over the past year during the pandemic. 

It is all extremely unpleasant. Also, as a former investment banker, I found it all pretty familiar. It suggests the old trade-off is back: There are deals to be done, money to be made, a lot of action everywhere, so you have to work all the time. 

It's possible that this is all cyclical: When financial firms are busy, they tell junior employees "sorry we can't offer you weekends or sleep, but here is a pile of money"; when they are not, they tell junior employees "sorry we can't offer you as much money as you expected, but here is a Saturday off."

But you never know. Back when everyone was getting half a weekend off, there was a lot of talk about how today's young people don't want the old-school trade-off, that the industry would have to change permanently in order to accommodate the next generation's demands for meaningful work and personal life. "Seven of the 30 private-equity associates in Apollo's New York City office, along with one principal, have left the firm over the past three months." "Associates at the firm are also granted some of the highest pay packages in the industry," and yet they're leaving anyway. Perhaps, having had a glimpse of the weekend, they can't go back to the old ways.

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Comments (112)

Mar 18, 2021 - 11:32am

I don't get how anyone remains productive with those hours, especially when your workload involves a lot of thinking and less random bitchwork. 

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Mar 18, 2021 - 3:44pm

LOL...these lateral opportunities are perennial, and a trap for most careers. Apollo knows that the great majority of lateral hires end up leaving, and unless you are a woman or URM (Apollo is making a big show of being socially conscious, for self serving purposes) you will be treated like sh*t, used up, and spit out. For many it derails their PE careers. Thanks but no thanks.

Mar 18, 2021 - 6:03pm

Never a problem. Apollo takes care of that. After a few months here, you will feel psychologically castrated, and sex will be the farthest thing from your mind.

Mar 18, 2021 - 8:12pm

do you think snobs like rich handler give any fuck about entry level analysts or associates?? fuck no, you are there to get sweaty and work round the clock til you burn out, so that rich can afford plastic surgery for his kids

Mar 18, 2021 - 8:23pm

No amount of surgery can help his kids lol

  • 21
  • Principal in PE - LBOs
Mar 20, 2021 - 12:18pm

Anyone know if the hybrid value group at Apollo just as bad or better?

As bad or worse. There were a bunch of guys in credit/PE that wouldn't have gotten promoted, but they were good little toy soldiers/company men, so they moved them into HVF where they can have a promotion track. So basically all these guys are just nose to the grindstone animals, and constantly feel less than and like they have something to prove. A few of the senior hybrid value guys are the quintessence of bad Apollo culture.

Mar 19, 2021 - 9:55am

imagine going from GS now to Apollo... mega yikes

Array

  • 3
Mar 21, 2021 - 11:21am

What makes Apollo uniquely bad?:

Humans are capable of extreme evil. They are also capable of noble conduct. In most environments, rules and accountability keep our evil instincts in check. The best among us behave well because of our internal values, but others need external regulation.

When external controls are lacking, or worse yet, when the environment INVITES selfish and ruthless conduct, the worst among us are free to maximally exploit and abuse others for our own advantage or ego needs. War time, concentration camps, organized crime, etc are extreme examples. The world of high finance has many pockets where despicable human conduct thrives because of a permissive environment, Apollo may well be the worst of these.

It is a moral wasteland. Not everyone is bad, of course. But the path to power, rooted solely in making money for the firm, is such that many vile human beings are in control, and will continue to ascend to power in the future. There is an absolute power divide between the associates and Principals/Partners, as in the associates having exactly zero control, and being 100% at the mercy of higher ranks. There are some quite decent Principals and a few reasonable partners, and if an associate is fortunate enough to largely work with these, he will survive. But there are teams of Principals and partners who will deliver such an absolutely intolerable experience that there is no alternative but to leave....there is zero opportunity to address any injustice. So greatly differing experiences await new associates, and accordingly some will stay and others will desperately seek to get out. There are Principals here who think nothing of utterly destroying days in a row of an associates time to endlessly tweak a work product for no reason to cater to their own obsessive need to make themselves look 1% better to the Partner. These same guys will never get over the slightest resistance, and will work behind the scenes to discredit the associate, and others in power will blindly accept all such efforts and the associate will simply plan to leave in disgust. This is an example of a permissive environment where bad conduct is free of cost. There is simply no mechanism to address legitimate grievances.

The disgust an associate may feel is directly proportional to the extent his own values and sense of morality diverges from this environment. If extreme, there will be no way to reconcile with such a system, no matter what the $ rewards. If moderate, or if the associate is lucky enough to mostly work with the better people, he can find a way to survive without personally adding to this kind of evil. But there are others who naturally have an instinct to actually exploit such an environment, to ingratiate themselves with those in power, no matter how vile they may be, and who await their own chance to get promoted and then perpetuate the abuse and exploit juniors for their own gain. For some of these, a 1% perceived gain for themselves is worth unchecked heinous treatment of an associate. And there is no one the associate can complain to. These are the future leaders. The system cannot be fixed, because fixing it would mean that some of the despicable human beings currently running the show would need to examine their own values and conduct ( which is not even possible for people of that ilk), conclude that they need to change, and then enforce change down the line. Not possible.

This is why there are some principals and partners who are universally hated, who are known to be absolutely intolerable to work with, and who break every rule of decency, yet thrive at this place. Some of them are purely all about petty process, lacking real investment skill, and producing work done entirely by associates and taking credit for it while pleasing the people above them. That is all it takes. Many associates with far greater talent and promise than these animals have left because of them.

Brief word about the high pay: the money does get real for principals and partners. For associates, it is a bad deal. Apollo extracts its work from half the number of associates that the workload demands, so the high pay still saves them a ton of money. Some other MFs could slash their work force in half and double the pay, exceeding Apollo pay easily.....

Mar 21, 2021 - 2:47pm

Conscience, personal integrity, values etc are the basic differentiating factors. A lack of these qualities, coupled with unlimited greed and ruthless self interest set some folks apart. Some will do anything to gain the upper hand. And such people at all levels will do anything to vindicate the system, including brazen misrepresentation and lies. Just another aspect of what we know humans to be capable of. It is the way some organizations roll.

Apr 6, 2021 - 11:42pm

Apollo and H&F associate very rarely stay in private equity afterwards ("learned a lot, worked my ass off, and I just don't think this job is for me"), so I always thought that was quite telling about their cultures. For Blackstone and KKR they stay in the industry, so I figure the associates like the job enough to stay. Warburg is very group-dependent. Carlyle they tend to stay in the industry as well. Not sure about TPG.

Mar 25, 2021 - 10:55am

Heard through the grape vine so take this with a grain of salt, but supposedly marginally better. Bit of a luck of the draw as a junior depending on which seniors you are working with. Still work you to the bone but the actual work is supposedly more interesting. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Mar 24, 2021 - 1:38pm

 Apollo has extended $100,000, $150,000, and $200,000 bonuses for first-year, second year, and third-year associates, respectively

crazy

Mar 24, 2021 - 1:47pm

Yep. 40% of associates will be leaving from NY alone. This is typical Apollo response, bribe the guys instead of addressing he root problem....because the root problem is with several senior guys as well as principals. Apollo is not capable of addressing that issue. They are recruiting like mad, and will no doubt snare some starry eyed wannabes, who will make a deal with the devil. Big mistake. This is not a one time transaction, it has career implications, and for most that will be a blunder.

Apr 1, 2021 - 11:56pm

Okay so here are my thoughts. Personally speaking, I would sacrifice 10 years of slaving as an associate/principal at Apollo to net $200mm+ in a 20-25 year career @ Apollo. TO ME, that's not necessarily what we call asymmetric risk-reward, but it's pretty close. Let's show some work:

Suppose Apollo raises a $25bn fund, and let's say you're a partner (and suppose fund lasts for 7 years). Assuming a 2x MOIC, the GP share is $5bn. If the partner's carry is 100bps, that implies $50mm over 7 years (~7.1mm per year), and if its 75bps, that implies $37.5mm over 7 years (~5.5mm per year). HOWEVER, Apollo is public, and that effectively cuts the GP share in half..solution? Maybe instead of 2x MOIC, they do 2.5x, which I think is reasonable considering how everyone says Apollo is the top performer, AND we are forgetting about RSUs: so let's just leave the numbers as they are lol. So we're talking $5-7mm per year in carry just from this one fund alone.

When this partner was a principal, they probably had carry in a fund that is still paying out. Let's say that was $15-20mm over 7 years, so $1-3mm per year. There is definitely going to be some overlapping between when the old fund and new fund payout, implying $6-10mm a year in carry alone (during those overlapping years). When you add on cash comp at the partner level (idk maybe another $1.5-2.5mm -- can anyone comment on this? What does an Apollo partner make in cash comp?), you get a number that is in the low 8 figures per year. But yes, those overlapping years won't last forever and that first fund will eventually be fully juiced out. So what, just subtract $1-3mm from that total comp figure in those overlapping years and it's still around 8 figures. 

So imagine if 4 years later Apollo does a $30bn fund, and now you get a few more bps of carry because you've been there a little longer, and then another 4 years later the same thing. By now you're 18 years in (10 years associate/principal, partner for 8 years, and your'e around 42 since you joined APO at age 24). If you stay there for 20-25 years (which is a challenge in and if itself, don't get me wrong), you'll get more carry in each successive fund fund. Now let's say all along, you've been putting a large portion of your carry back into the fund via co-invest. GUYS. Add all of this stuff up.

Fund 1 (Principal): $15-20mm

Fund 2 (Partner): $30-50mm

Fund 3 (Partner): $40-60mm

Fund 4 (Senior Partner): $50-70mm

Co-Invest all along with leverage: God knows how much, probably well over $100mm

That is an unfathomable number. I'm sure that number is greater than what you could make working as a partner at any tiger cub (assuming you're a notch below someone like Scott Shleifer/Kelly Granat). That number is something like $200mm on the lower end over those 20-25 years. SURE, inflation, returns getting weaker, economics getting worse...let's apply a more than modest 50% discount...$100mm. Not too shabby. But it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Getting an associate gig at Apollo is very hard, and staying there is 10 times harder. Let alone staying there for 20-25 years. But the math is there, and for anyone capable of standing up to the challenge, a treasure chest will be waiting for you. And we're not even considering the random blowout funds/investments they've had like Lyondell Bassell where they put up 7x MOIC. If we are being really optimistic with the numbers, I'd venture to say that you could even reach $500mm-$1bn. But that's lofty. But hey, look at guys like Jon Gray at BX and Kleinman at APO, they're EXACT evidence of this. 20-25 years is a long time and it's not as easy as it sounds. Maybe 1 in 1000 people will slay the beast. Those are my 2 cents, interested to see where I went wrong with this lol, or, if I'm right

Apr 2, 2021 - 10:53am

"You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city."

"if"

Array
  • Associate 3 in PE - LBOs
Apr 2, 2021 - 4:51pm

The key input to your math is bps of carry, and I'm not sure where you're drawing that from.  There are a lot of mouths to feed.  

I also wouldn't say starting this path as an associate at APO is anything like the path Jon Gray went on.  He's very talented, but got immensely lucky being in the right place and the right time when PE was still in growth mode with a lot of low hanging fruit.  Making it to the highest echelons today takes much more than just time/grind, it also takes immense talent (which I realize you acknowledged) and political savvy.

Also, I'm not sure sacrificing my life for 20 years is worth any amount of money.  To those that succeed at Apollo, though, it's not a sacrifice, it's their entire identity and I believe they truly love the game (for better or worse) and everything that comes with it.  

Apr 2, 2021 - 5:24pm

bps of carry was easy to derive. Using that PE Compensation report, a MF principal has between $10-20mm in carry. Let's meet in the middle and say $15mm for a principal at Apollo, which we know is probably on the low side considering how Apollo is the highest paying shop. For a $25bn fund with 2x return and 20% GP share, there's $5bn in carry. Just do $15mm/$5bn, and you get 30bps. Same thing for partner level, but the fund size will probably go up because these guys are always smashing new records for fund size. Senior partner will be even more. So I think the math fully checks out

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