Steel Partners’ Warren Lichtenstein isn’t your average hedge fund manager. He’s one of the toughest activist hedge fund managers out there. Some call him a vandal, but his short-term oriented approach brings high returns for the shareholders of the companies he’s attacking and definitely for his hedge fund clients.
Warren Lichtenstein currently has $4 Billion in assets under management. However, things were pretty bad for him in 2008 and 2009. He lost 39% in 2008 and several of his investors wanted their remaining money back. There were two problems. First, he invested their money in illiquid, hard to sell stuff. Second and most importantly, he didn’t want to give up the funds and stop collecting management fees. So he came up with a “brilliant” idea. He would convert his hedge fund into some form of a closed-end fund where his investors had to sell their shares at a potentially 15-20% discount to the NAV, or they keep paying him fees forever. Naturally he got into a nasty fight with some of his investors, among which are Carl Icahn and the J. Paul Getty Trust.
Warren Gary Lichtenstein was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in May of 2009. He was driving a green Land Rover at 2:54 am, and his vehicle crossed over a fog line three times before he was stopped. The officer allegedly detected an odor of alcohol, which led to the roadside sobriety test Lichtenstein failed. He was taken to the Pitkin County jail in Aspen.
Warren Lichtenstein has a lot of investments in Japan. For instance, he had 18% of a Japanese beer company, Sapporo Holdings, at one point last year. However, Lichtenstein sold off his stake in the company after losing a shareholder vote.
Even though Warren Lichtenstein’s latest 13F shows a tiny fraction of his holdings, it still lets us take a glimpse into his holdings. Here is what Lichtenstein had at the end of September:
1. Unisys Corp (UIS): Warren Lichtenstein kept his Unisys holdings the same during the summer as the stock price increased more than 50% through the end of September. Since then Unisys only returned 2%.
2. Gencorp Inc (GY): Gencorp returned 9% since the end of September. Lichtenstein serves on Gencorp’s board of directors and receives cash or stock compensation. Interestingly, if he chooses to receive his compensation in GY stock, he receives a 50% bonus. This is one of the dumbest compensation arrangements ever. Lichtenstein personally owns 42,000 shares of GY. If he doesn’t want to increase his stock ownership, he could still opt in for the “stock compensation” and then sell his other holdings by the same amount.
3. CNO Financial Group (CNO): The stock returned 18.2% since September. Lichtenstein didn’t change his holdings since June.
4. SL Industries Inc (SLI): This is one of Lichtenstein’s long term investments. He was elected to SLI’s board in 2002 and helped to turn the company around. The stock more than doubled since he joined the board.
5. Nathan’s Famous Inc (NATH): Steel Partners have had these shares since at least July 2009. The stock increased more than 25% since then, yet underperformed the market.
6. Rowan Cos Inc (RDC): Lichtenstein reduced his holdings during the third quarter. RDC returned 14.6% since the end of September.
During the third quarter Lichtenstein reduced some of his Harbinger Group Inc (HRG) stock. Harbinger is Philip Falcone’s company.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.