Lead Left Interview – Rob Morris

This week we chat with Rob Morris, founder and managing partner of Olympus Partners. Prior to founding Olympus in 1988, Rob held a variety of management positions in various manufacturing and financial services businesses at General Electric Corporation, the last of which was Senior Vice President of GE Investment Corporation, where he managed GE Pension Trust’s $1.6 billion private equity portfolio. Olympus manages over $8.5 billion on behalf of corporate pension plans, public retirement systems, university endowment funds, and the executives of Olympus’ portfolio companies.

The Lead Left: Rob, thanks for the time today. First of all, congratulations on your just-completed fundraising. The last time we spoke you didn’t think you’d have to leave the building to meet your goal.

Rob Morris: Thanks, Randy. Well, I did have to leave the building once. But it went well, thanks to our track record and experience. It’s not just about having a good IRR. It’s about how we handle risk. We have an extremely low loss ratio, less than 3%, in buyouts for the life of our firm.

So first of all, we’re good at managing to lower risk. It helps us and our investors sleep well at night. When there’s bad news, we communicate with our investors instantly. We don’t hide things. Finally, we reward investors who stick with us. We’ll try to give them as much as they want in the next fund. We have many investors who are happy and they bring their buddies. We did a chart of our 30 years that showed how each investor connects to the others. It looked like a spider. We never use a placement agent.

The wind is at our back. It’s still a no-yield environment. Private equity is a big category and middle market is well-positioned.

TLL: Do you see a shaking out of the industry over the next five years?