The Predator's Ball: Exploring Wall Street's Notorious Event
The Predators' Ball, hosted by Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc., was an annual convention connecting high-risk companies with investors seeking high rewards. Over time, it evolved into facilitating leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers using junk bonds. Today, "predators' ball" refers to meetings of wealthy investors employing aggressive tactics for profit, including shorting and buyouts.
The Predators' Ball was an annual convention organized by investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. Its purpose was to connect high-risk companies in need of financing with investors seeking high rewards. Over time, the convention focused more on facilitating leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers using junk bonds. The event gained its name from the participation of influential corporate raiders and financiers who were clients of Drexel.
Understanding Predators' Ball
The Predator's Ball attracted notable individuals like Ron Perelman and Carl Icahn, who were private equity investors and corporate raiders. Institutional investors interested in high-yield bonds also attended, alongside management teams from companies that were either previous or potential targets of leveraged buyouts.
The term "predators' ball" later became the title of a book chronicling the ascent of junk bond trading and the subsequent downfall of Drexel and Michael Milken. Milken, a philanthropist, and former felon, utilized high-yield junk bonds for corporate financing and mergers and acquisitions during his tenure at Drexel in the 1980s. Since then, "predators' ball" has been used to describe gatherings of affluent investors who generate profits through tactics like shorting, buyouts, and other aggressive approaches.
Connie Bruck's Book
In 1988, journalist Connie Bruck wrote "The Predators' Ball," a book detailing the story of Drexel Burnham Lambert and the emergence of the junk bond raiders in the 1980s. The book highlighted the influential role played by Milken and Drexel in fueling the leveraged buyout trend during that period. Bruck's work received attention, with Milken even attempting to offer compensation to halt its publication, an offer which Bruck refused.
As the book coincided with the peak of the leveraged buyout boom, Bruck later updated it to cover the subsequent downfall of Drexel and Milken's legal troubles related to securities and reporting violations. In 1988, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Milken and Drexel Burnham Lambert with insider trading and stock fraud. A year later, Milken faced federal indictment and ultimately served nearly two years in prison after pleading guilty to securities fraud charges.
The Predators' Ball was a defining event in the history of M&A and corporate finance. It paved the way for aggressive tactics like leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers using junk bonds, and the term "predators' ball" is still used today to describe similar gatherings of wealthy investors seeking high rewards through aggressive approaches.