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Hall of Fame 47 - Kenneth Abramowitz

Kenneth Abramowitz says he’s slowed down a bit since his heyday as a star analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in the 1980s and ‘90s, but not many people would agree — except, perhaps, those who believe that managing a venture capital fund with ten full-time investment professionals in Germany and the U.S. is less demanding than being a sell-side researcher. But Abramowitz has always been one to keep busy. While working on an MBA at Harvard Business School, which he received in 1976, Abramowitz took a course forecasting high-tech developments and had to select a new technology to analyze. He chose computerized-­tomography scanners because he had invested $5,000 — then 50 percent of his net worth — in a CT scan manufacturer. “I had so much fun doing it, I thought there must be a career doing this,” he says. From there it was on to Bernstein, which he joined the following year. In 1980, the year in which he debuted on the All-­America Research Team at No. 1 in Hospital Supply (the first of the 15 times he topped a health care sector, out of 37 total appearances through 1999), ­Abramowitz told ­Institutional Investor: “I’m not Superman, but my life is the medical field. There’s no difference between work and pleasure for me.” Earlier that year, Abramowitz had taken charge of the sector from Lewis Sanders, who’d been promoted to head of research at Bernstein. Clients were immediately impressed. “They’re the best reports in the investment field — sort of masterpieces,” said one. At that time, Abramowitz had plans to cover hospital management and had just finished five months’ work on a report that involved 50 company and laboratory visits (he expanded his coverage and would go on to rank in Hospital Management too, reaching No. 1 in 1986); that set a pace which would continue throughout his career. “I wrote 500 pages a year for 20 years,” he recalls. Admirers noted the volume of those reports, such as a 200-pager published in 1985, “The Future of Health Care Delivery in America.” According to one investor, “he simply works harder and talks to more people in the industry than anyone else.” That didn’t stop the firm from showing him — and 14 other analysts — the door when ­Bernstein was sold to Alliance Capital in 2000. Abramowitz, then 50, decided it was time to hang up his analysts’ cleats. “You have to have a big fire in your belly to succeed as a sell-side analyst,” he says. “It’s a job for younger ­people.”

Abramowitz switched from public to private equity with a three-year stint at the Carlyle Group. He identified the need for an intermediate fund between early- and late-stage venture capital, but the firm decided it was too modest an opportunity for them. The newly hatched entrepreneur started NGN ­Capital the next day; within 18 months he and his co-founders had raised $250 million and were off and running.          

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