Vulture Capitalism: An Introduction
The fall of American giants such as Sears and Toys R Us has brought the focus back on vulture capitalists. People react negatively when they hear about private equity firms who have profited off the misery of other weaker firms. This is the reason why they have coined a derogatory term for the companies. This term is called vulture capitalism. Vulture capitalism sounds a lot like venture capitalism. However, they are very different indeed. Venture capital is about nursing nascent firms and building large companies out of them. On the other hand, vulture capital is about taking down other companies and profiting from their demise.
This description of vulture capitalism makes it sound like a questionable economic activity which should be illegal. However, the reality is that vulture capitalism also serves an important economic function. In this article, we will have a look at what vulture capitalism is why it may be necessary for the economy as a whole.
What is Vulture Capitalism?
Simply put, Vulture capitalism is the process of making money off dying firms. Vulture capitalists typically buy a stake in a firm at rock bottom prices. They are able to do so because they invest in firms which other financiers typically avoid. They provide finance to businesses which are considered to be unviable by traditional means. For example, Toys R Us and Sears were considered to be outdated brick and mortar stores working in the age of Amazon. Traditional lenders like banks were wary of lending money to these businesses.
Once, they have identified the target, vulture funds set aggressive financial goals for the revival of the firm. There are two possibilities, one is that the firm is able to perform. In this case, both the firm and the vulture fund win and everyone is happy. Alternatively, vulture funds structure the firm in such a way that they can gain even if the firm as a whole fails. Hence, vulture funds always seem to gain money even if the underlying firm in which they have invested money goes bankrupt and ceases to exist.
Criticisms against Vulture Capitalism
Is Vulture Capitalism Necessary?
The same situation was faced by Argentina. Here, also finally the government ended up becoming bankrupt, and the vulture firms were blamed heavily for it. However, thanks to the constant pressure that these funds exerted, Argentina ended up in much better financial shape, and the crisis was smaller than it would otherwise have been.
The bottom line is that vulture capital firms dont throw good money after bad. If they realize that a firm is not going to turn around, they cut their losses and move out. Many times they end up strangling the company which is why they end up with a bad name.
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