Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Goldman’s First P.R. Nightmare: Eddie Cantor and the ‘29 Crash" (GS)

The story of Goldman Sachs Trading Corp. has been likened to that of Sam Insull with his holding company pyramid.
Tain't so. Insull actually built something. He merged Chicago Edison with Commonwealth Electric Light & Power Co. to form Commonwealth Edison, now a unit of Exelon.
From MarketBeat:

Goldman may be adding “adverse publicity” to the laundry list of financial risks in its annual report, but the fallout from the Great Recession isn’t the first — or even the worst — public backlash the firm has faced.

We’re all accustomed to thinking of Goldman Sachs as Wall Street’s best and brightest. But once upon a time Goldman Sachs was a national laughingstock.

It was decades after Goldman got its start as a small dealer of commercial paper back in 1869. During the boom times of the 1920s, the firm had moved to add a bit more pep to its sleepy underwriting business. The solution? Goldman Sachs Trading Corp., a leveraged “pyramid” of investment trusts – essentially a closed-end fund inside a fund inside yet another fund — that went public not long before the market crash and failed spectacularly....MORE

Folks with an historical bent can look up Shenandoah Corp. and Blue Ridge Corp.

The ever amazing Time Magazine archives has this tidbit on the former, dated August 5, 1929, thirty days before the top:

Business: Million-Dollar Names

Last week a select portion of the U. S. public was permitted to buy stock in Shenandoah Corp., a newborn investment trust which came into being with a silver spoon of $102,000,000 resources in its mouth. Eager, the public snapped up one million shares of common, one million shares of preferred, paying up to 42 for common offered at 17½ and up to 60 for preferred offered at 50. By midafternoon of the first day's sale there was no Shenandoah stock available.

Shenandoah Corp. was broadly empowered to "buy, sell, trade in and hold stocks and securities of any kind . . . participate in syndicates and underwritings . . . exercise such other of its charter powers as its Board of Directors may from time to time determine." The Board thus broadly trusted contained great names, One was Goldman Sachs & Co., potent financiers. Another was Harrison Williams, potent utility man. After the House of Morgan has taken its bow as First in Finance, it is questionable whether any other banking house, from the standpoint of present and recent activity, much outranks Goldman Sachs. As for Mr. Williams, if all the utilities in which he is interested should suddenly be demolished, one U. S. electric light out of every ten would go dark. The investor in Shenandoah is virtually turning his money over to Sidney Weinburg and Waddill Catchings of Goldman Sachs and to Harrison Williams of Central States Electric Corp. —men whose names are million-dollar assets in billion-dollar industries.

Goldman Sachs. Simplest measure of a successful banking house is the success of the issues it has backed. Many are the winners that Goldman Sachs has sponsored. It brought out a Lambert Pharmacal issue at 41¾, Woolworth at 55, May Dept. Stores at 50, Continental Can at 52½, S. H. Kress at 60, Sears Roebuck at 50, United Biscuit at 28. Special pride is taken in National Dairy Products, issued three years ago at 33. The stock has paid a 33⅓-stock dividend, followed by a 100% stock dividend, is now selling at 78. One of the original $33 shares has become worth $624. Brilliant also has been the record of Goldman Sachs Trading Corp., Goldman Sachs Co.'s own investment trust. Issued last December at 104 its stock opened at 109, split two for one, is now at 116, making an original $109 investment now worth $232.

Original Goldman Sachs partners were Julius Goldman, Harry Sachs, Samuel Sachs. The company began as a buyer of commercial paper, with its funds so meager that Harry and Samuel Sachs are said to have spent part of their time as commercial paper buyers and the remainder as clothing peddlers with packs on their backs. When the sons of the founders became active in the business, difficulties arose between young Henry Goldman and the Sachs family, reputedly concerning Mr. Goldman's sympathetic War attitude toward the Central Powers. At any rate, there are now no Goldmans in Goldman Sachs....MORE

Here's the archive on Goldman Sachs Trading Corp.

Here's some of Time's reporting on the 1932 Congressional hearings:

...Goldman Sachs. Butt of many a Broadway jape is the deflation of Goldman, Sachs Trading Corp. stock.* Sponsored in 1928 by the old banking house of Goldman, Sachs & Co., this investment trust stock quickly doubled in value, was split 2-for-1. At its high point Goldman, Sachs Trading Corp. stock was worth over half a billion dollars. Last week at its price of $1.50 a share it had a market value of $8,700.000.

*In The Laugh Parade Funnyman Ed Wynn came ambling on stage aboard a camel. Forgetting the correct word to make the camel kneel, he tries several commands, finally whispered ''Goldman Sachs." The camel collapses in a heap.