This content is from: Corner Office

People in the News: The Billionaire's Club

Billionaires Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison and Wang Jianlin are among seven people in finance who've been busy of late.

Rough Seas Ahead

Larry Ellison could be in for a nasty hangover.  The Oracle Corp. CEO skipped his own keynote at the IT giant’s biggest customer conference of the year last month to watch his Oracle  Team USA pull off a thrilling come-from-behind victory in the final leg of the America’s Cup yacht race. But as the champagne flowed on San Francisco Bay, trouble was brewing among some of Oracle’s big investors. Ellison, 69, earned $77 million last year, a seeming pittance for a man worth an estimated $41 billion but too much in the eyes of shareholders, including BlackRock and  Vanguard, who rejected the company’s compensation practices in a nonbinding “say on pay” vote. Redwood City, California–based Oracle will hold its annual meeting on October 31; with its stock trading at about $34 as of late September, up just 2 percent year to date, investors are preparing to step up the pressure on Ellison and the board for smaller pay and a stronger link to performance. Luckily for Ellison, the meeting doesn’t clash with any major boat races. — Aaron Timms

Big Picture Thinker

Chinese property magnate Wang Jianlin wants to give Hollywood a run for its money. At a September event in Qing-dao, a northeastern coastal city best known for its clean air and Tsingtao beer, the founder and chairman of real estate and entertainment giant Dalian Wanda Group announced plans to spend up to 50 billion yuan ($8.2 billion) to build Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis, a sprawling development that will include movie studios and beachfront hotels. Wang, 58, is China’s richest man, according to Forbes magazine, which puts his fortune at $14 billion. Citing projections that Chinese box office revenue will be double North America’s within a decade, he aims to create his country’s version of Tinseltown, complete with an annual film festival and awards ceremony.  The fact that the likes of  Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicole Kidman attended the Qingdao shindig shows that Hollywood takes  Wang seriously. No wonder: Last year Dalian  Wanda paid $2.6 billion for  AMC Entertainment, the largest U.S. movie theater operator. — Allen  T. Cheng

Power Broker

Socially responsible investors have a friend in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy. Late last month the EPA proposed new standards for power plant carbon emissions. “These standards will also spark the innovation we need to build the next generation of power plants, helping grow a more sustainable clean energy economy,” Boston native McCarthy, 59, who was named EPA head in July, said in a statement. For coal-fired turbines, the planned changes would limit carbon dioxide emissions to 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour, versus today’s national average of about 1,800.  They should help spur power producers, which account for more than one third of  U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, to embrace wind, solar, nuclear and more-efficient natural-gas technology. — Ben Baris

Future Plans

Talk about an early exit:  After two years at the helm of  Australia’s Future Fund, Mark Burgess is calling it quits. Last month the $83.6 billion sovereign wealth fund’s managing director and president announced his resignation — and his intention to return to the private sector. During his brief tenure the Future Fund grew its assets by more than $13 billion; under CIO David Neal, it has posted a 10 percent annualized return over the past three years. The fund is also fully invested, which may help explain Burgess’s decision because he prefers to grow businesses. But he also took charge during a time of upheaval that saw outspoken founding chairman David Murray succeeded by David Gonski, who has delegated much of the responsibility for educating the public about the Future Fund’s investments to Burgess. The affable 50-year-old former banker, who previously served as CEO of Sydney-based investment firm  Treasury Group, will stay put until a new chief executive is found. — Loch Adamson

Something Old, Something New

Jeff Bezos knows a thing or two about portfolio diversification. In August the billionaire founder of  Seattle-based online retail giant Amazon and former employee of  U.S. hedge fund firm D.E. Shaw announced that he was buying the 136-year-old Washington Post  newspaper for $250 million. Then last month Twitter revealed that it had privately filed documentation for an IPO that may happen this year. Through his personal investment firm, Bezos Expeditions, Bezos has an undisclosed venture capital stake in the California-based social media outfit, which allows users to post short messages and has been embraced by everyone from marketers to celebrities. The big hope for the Post  is that tech entrepreneur Bezos, 49, can help it thrive in the digital age. If that proves to be an uphill climb, he should have a  Twitter IPO windfall to fall back on. — Imogen Rose-Smith

Playing It SAFE

Zhou Xiaochuan, the world’s longest-serving central bank governor, may launch a new sovereign wealth fund to invest a big chunk of China’s $3.4 trillion foreign exchange reserves. The People’s Bank of China head Zhou, 65, a reformer who led the China Securities Regulatory Commission before taking his current post in 2002, has reportedly appointed a team at the State  Administration of Foreign Exchange, the PBOC unit that manages the country’s reserves, to explore setting up a rival to SWF China Investment Corp. It’s the latest spat in a bitter feud between $575 billion CIC and SAFE, which the Finance Ministry pressured into capitalizing the fund in 2007. “SAFE wants full control of  China’s FX reserves and will do everything possible to keep it that way,” says a source close to both agencies. Zhou has already established Hong Kong–based SAFE Investment and London’s Gingko Tree Investment to manage assets including global equities and U.K. real estate. — A.T.C.

From the Ashes

A major fundraiser for and senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s recent U.S. presidential bid, former business consultant Russ Gerson is combing his network for potential partners in Phoenix Star Capital, the New  York asset management firm he’s launching with Alfred Eckert III. Eckert, 65, ex-CEO of alternative-investment manager GSC, flamed out spectacularly in the 2008 crash. GSC filed for Chapter 11 in 2010, and he declared bankruptcy a year later. He also spent two months in a coma after a brain injury; now healthy, he’s keen to build a $1 billion firm by pursuing opportunities such as distressed mortgages. Many of the investors attracted to Phoenix Star are people whom Eckert “made a lot of money for in the past,” says Gerson, 53. Mindful that recruiting institutions right away won’t be easy, though, he and Eckert are trying a novel approach:  They plan to raise $100 million to invest in their firm’s equity. — I.R.-S.

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