Paul Reichmann, along with his brothers Albert and Ralph, bought eight New York City office towers for $320 million (U.S.) by putting down $50 million in cash. At the time, rents in NYC (which was flirting with bankruptcy) were running between $7 and $13 (U.S.) per square foot, but would climb to as much as $70 over the next four years and generate estimated revenues of $2 million (U.S.) daily. The deal made the Reichmanns the second-richest landlords in New York.
With creditors breathing down his neck, Tembec Forest Products CEO George Petty bought a warehouse full of paper pulp at rock-bottom prices on credit and used the inventory as collateral to pay debts and bankroll his operations. Six months later, just as his loans were coming due, pulp prices rose and Petty sold at a pretty profit.
In the early 1980s, investment firms saw trading revenues collapse and their ability to fall back on underwriting business undermined by high interest rates. In response, Gordon Capital Corp. CEO James Connacher pioneered the Bay Street practice of "bought deals," in which securities dealers pay companies in advance for public issues.
The move helped turn a mid-sized firm into a heavy hitter involved in almost every major takeover deal that decade.
Gerry Schwartz of Onex Corp. won big during the '91 recession by looking south. Between 1989 and 1993, Onex went from having 80% of its revenues in Canada to having practically 80% of its revenues in the United States. At a time when many companies were merely trying to stay out of the red, Onex was steadily increasing revenues and building a war chest for future acquisitions.
Prem Watsa, CEO of Fairfax Financial Holdings, bet against almost every other money manager in the world-and won. His hedges against losses at U.S. and European banks and insurance companies earned his shareholders a cool $2 billion. And his belief that markets would continue to deteriorate is still paying dividends. On Sept. 3, 2008, Fairfax stock sat at $208 (U.S.) on the New York exchange; in mid-December, after the autumn market carnage, it was 47% higher, at $305. The Dow dropped 24% during the same period.
Slogans adopted by U.S. banks that, in hindsight, now seem regrettable
Where vision gets built
The strength to be there
No one can do what Countrywide can
We're bullish on the future
Bank of America
Bank of opportunity
We're Wachovia, and we're here