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The Idiots Have Made Their Entrance - More Good Bear Food From The Wall Street Journal

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The Credit Crisis is Going to Get Worse

Twenty years ago, Ted Forstmann contributed a scathing – and prescient – op-ed to this newspaper warning that the junk-bond craze was about to end badly: "Today's financial age has become a period of unbridled excess with accepted risk soaring out of proportion to possible reward," he wrote in October 1988. "Every week, with ever-increasing levels of irresponsibility, many billions of dollars in American assets are being saddled with debt that has virtually no chance of being repaid."

Within a year, the junk-bond market had collapsed, and within 18 months Drexel Burnham Lambert, the leading firm of the junk-bond world, was bankrupt. Mr. Forstmann sees even worse trouble coming today.

For a curmudgeon, he is a cheerful man. When we met for lunch recently in a tony midtown restaurant, he was wearing a well-tailored suit, a blue shirt and a yellow tie. He spoke with the calm self-assurance of someone who has something to say but nothing left to prove.

"We are in a credit crisis the likes of which I've never seen in my lifetime," Mr. Forstmann warns. He adds: "The credit problems in this country are considerably worse than people have said or know. I didn't even know subprime mortgages existed and I was worried about the credit crisis."

Mr. Forstmann denies being an expert in the capital markets. But he does have some experience with them. He was present at the creation of the private-equity business. The firm he co-founded, Forstmann Little, rode the original private-equity boom in the 1980s while skirting the excesses of the junk-bond craze in the later years. It was for a time the most successful private-equity firm in the world, renowned for both its outsize returns and its caution. For two years after Mr. Forstmann wrote his 1988 op-ed, Forstmann Little sat on $2 billion in uninvested funds, waiting for the right opportunities. Savvy investments in Dr. Pepper and Gulfstream, among others over the years, helped make Mr. Forstmann a billionaire.

These days, he devotes most of his professional attention to IMG, the sports and entertainment agency. But the economy has him worried.

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Thanks for the post. There are few of these people (with enough experience to know what is going on) around, it is nice to discover a new one.

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  • 399 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?

      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%

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