🔴 An Upcoming Jobs Crisis (w/ Art Bilger) | Real Vision Classics


ALEX ROSENBERG: Art, thanks so much for joining
us. ART BILGER: Happy to be here. Thank you. ALEX ROSENBERG: So, I want to talk about what
you’re doing now, what you’re looking at about the nature of work and some of the ways in
which technological advancements may be setting us back and in certain ways. But to get there, and in order to get there,
I want to give people an idea for where you’ve been and what led to these revelations into
these solutions. So, let’s just start at the very beginning
in terms of how did you get into the financial industry? ART BILGER: Well, it’s funny. I was just telling that story the other day. Someone was asking me. When I was 16 years old, I got my first job. And my father got me a job as a summer intern
for a small Wall Street. Although very famous Wall Street brokerage
firm called Spingarn Heinen and Company. This was 1969. And I went to work there, this was boom days
on Wall Street. And my job was to be a runner. Back then, we didn’t have all the digital
and so you carried checks between firms and securities between firms. And the way I remember it, I was the youngest
runner I think by 50 years. I think the next youngest guy was about 66
years old. Anyway, it was a fabulous two months. It just opened my eyes to a world that I really
didn’t know anything about. And I came out of that summer saying, I want
to go to work on Wall Street when I’m done with college. Subsequent to that, Wall Street crashed. And so, my father actually tried talking me
out of the idea of wanting to go to Wall Street. ALEX ROSENBERG: What did he want you to do? ART BILGER: Well, he was a businessman. So, it wasn’t that he didn’t want me to do
business. It just Wall Street, he thought was different. But anyway, I didn’t listen. And so, what happened was when it was time
to apply to college, I actually applied to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania,
and they admitted me. And that’s how it all began. And what happened is I actually knew over
time, and I don’t remember how this was that I ultimately, from a Wall Street standpoint,
I wanted to become an investment banker. And I didn’t really want to- I wasn’t interested
in the sales and trading side, but more the financial advisory type side and merger and
acquisition. And that, I don’t remember how that got into
my head. But when I was attending the Wharton School,
that was pretty clear to me. ALEX ROSENBERG: And then so we fast forward
a little bit. I don’t know how long, and we find ourselves
at Drexel Burnham. And as that firm was becoming- it must have
been the fastest growth for any Wall Street firm in terms of the amount of profits generated
and the amount of change to the financial industry. ART BILGER: Well, let’s go back a little bit
first, because there was some other critical points before Drexel. The one thing I didn’t know until the summer
of between my sophomore and junior years at Penn. Well, I worked side of summer job at the Chase
Manhattan Bank, and I was working for an international BP there. At the end of the summer, he took me out to
lunch, he says, Art, you’re great. And the Wharton School is great, but I got
bad news for you. You can’t get a job as an investment banker
in today’s world without an MBA. And I said, oh- now, it’s obviously not like
that today. Today, you have analyst programs in all these
firms, but there was no analyst program back then. And so, what I did is I said, okay, I’ll go
get an MBA. But I was going to finish Wharton. So, actually what I did is I actually shifted
much of my curriculum to Liberal Arts, electives and Liberal Arts curriculum, although there
were requirements for it that I didn’t take, because I didn’t really feel like duplicating
my- and I literally went, I graduated from the Wharton School in May of ’75. And I started the MBA program at the University
of Chicago in July of ’75. I literally just drove from Philadelphia to
Chicago, got my MBA at the University of Chicago. And now, I was qualified to apply for an investment
banking job and applied to Drexel Burnham, as well as a few other places. And Fred Joseph, who at the time was running
corporate finance, and at this point, Drexel was unknown. And Fred, who went to Harvard undergrad and
Harvard grad, everyone in the three years before me that he hired I think went to Harvard. So, the fact that he hired me from the University
of Chicago, I even said to him, what happened, everyone from Harvard turned you down? Anyway, so I became, I think two or three
of us that joined that year. And so, I joined Drexel in summer of ’77. And originally in New York, in the corporate
finance area, and then ultimately moved to California very early ’80s. ALEX ROSENBERG: Did you have a feeling while
you’re at that firm that we are changing the financial world around us? What was it like day to day, week to week
being inside such a growing and influential company? ART BILGER: Well, at first, it didn’t seem
like we had much influence at all yet, didn’t have any business. But I’d say in ’78 is when we did our first
junk bond financing, new issue financing. I remember when I first joined, we’re doing
a lot of debt restructuring work, because Mike Milken was already at the firm business
and trading a lot of the broken down securities out there. So, actually the first thing I’ve ever worked
on was the restructuring of the debt of an REIT. And what was interesting is I was- owned all
kinds of trailer parks in the southern part of the country, and I had to go down and do
diligence in Georgia and the panhandle of Florida. And I grew up in New York, I’d never seen
a trailer park. I’ve seen many. Anyway, but it was ’78 is when I think we
did our first new issue bond deal. And that’s really where the momentum began
building. And then so ’78 and ’79, ’80, ’81 really started
becoming a very significant product on Wall Street in general. But Drexel dominated that business, and other
the firms who did some, but Drexel truly dominate. And thinking about it, it was a financing
vehicle for enterprises that really didn’t have much in the way of alternatives. So, it wasn’t just that we built a great business
for ourselves. But we really enabled a lot of other entrepreneurs
and others to build incredible businesses that they might have had a tough time getting
financing for. ALEX ROSENBERG: Now, did your friends from
Wharton and University of Chicago say what the hell are you guys doing? You can’t you can’t do this. This isn’t how Wall Street works, or? ART BILGER: No, because matter of fact, one
of my closest friends from Chicago, he initially got out and went to work at another firm and
he was on the sales and trading side. And after a short period of time, I said to
him, one of these days, you’ll get smart, Leon, and decide to come to work at Drexel
and go to work for Mike Milken. And he actually eventually did. I think it was about four or five years later. But no, I think people were intrigued from
pretty early on. ALEX ROSENBERG: What was it like working with
Mike Milken in the ’80s? ART BILGER: Well, it was fabulous. You had to- a funny story. It’s actually written up I think, in some
Drexel books. I learned very early on that if you want to
get ahead and get ahead with Mike, you got to play the game. And so, this truly happened. At some point- I’m now living in LA, and I’m
waiting for Mike. He was in a meeting for the end of the day
for a couple hours. And I forget what deal it was, but we had
to make a decision on Sunday, it was a very time-sensitive decision. And he comes out of the meeting about six
o’clock. And I’m waiting. I said, Mike, listen, we got to sit down,
we got to talk this through. We got to figure out what we’re going to do
on this. And he said Art, look, I really apologize,
but Lori and the kids- Lori’s his wife- Lori and the kids are waiting for me. I can’t be late. Can we meet first thing tomorrow morning? So, I said, having played the game, I said,
okay, no problem. I said, what time would you like to meet? And he said, could we meet at 4:30 in the
morning? And I said, what am I supposed to do between
1 AM and then? So, working with Mike was a true experience,
learnt obviously a tremendous amount. Also, Mike introduced all of us. He really became a magnet for a lot of pretty
interesting people out there. So, a lot of the interesting introductions
and ultimately, relationships that I developed over time. A lot of them were original intros by Mike. ALEX ROSENBERG: I think we all know what eventually
happened to that firm but from someone inside, what was that like the last years there at
Drexel Burnham? ART BILGER: One that required a lot of change. So, it was ’86 when the first news broke. At the time, I was in LA and a fella named
John Kissick ran corporate finance in LA, and I was his number two. From the time I moved out, when it was John
and me, we were now up to, I think, like about 89 investment bankers in just Los Angeles. Forget about when I joined the firm in ’77,
I think I was the 21st to 23rd investment banker in the firm. We got up to probably 600 investment bankers. Anyway, what happened was when things- we
still kept doing a lot of business. I don’t know that it really hurt business
at any meaningful degree. What did hurt the business a little bit is
the stock market of ’87, it influenced a lot. But then, we had to start thinking about what
might happen? And I guess it was ’89 when Drexel finally
pled guilty. And it was as a result of that, that’s what
really caused the unwinding of Drexel- when Mike pled guilty and had to go off to prison. What happened when Drexel pled guilty, the
banks started pulling our lines of credit. And so, the economics of day to day sales
and trading were becoming impacted. So, and that was ’89. And that’s why finally, February of ’90, we
went out of business. But we kept doing a lot of business. And I will tell you, the spirit of the people
were quite good. I mentioned Kissick because what happened
is when Mike had to leave the firm, John Kissick moved over to the high yield bond department. And he sat there from an administrative standpoint. I became head of investment banking in LA. And Fred Joseph, who now was the CEO of the
firm, he had me, Leon Black, and a fellow named John Sorte in New York, become co-heads
of the corporate finance area out there. And Leon was running the M&A group, I was
running LA and Sorte, more the generalist stuff in New York. ALEX ROSENBERG: So, before we move on, I’m
just curious, looking back now, do you think Milken has gotten a bad rap in the public
imagination? And maybe Drexel Burnham has gotten a bad
rap? Do you think that the perception of Milken
as this criminal, running this big criminal enterprise, I guess you saw, you were there,
you knew everything that happened, and now, I think his perceptions around these conferences
and that he’s doing a lot of good things in the world. But I’m just curious what it’s like to have
been there. And now, to see from the sidelines people
talk about Milken became one of these figures of Wall Street greed is in the pantheon of
these people like me enough I guess what do you make of that? ART BILGER: I guess I’m biased, but I think
it was fairly unjust what happened to Mike in that- Yes, I’m sure he did some things
wrong. Okay? I wasn’t there into the detail, but I’m sure
there’s some stick. But there were a lot of things done all over
Wall Street that had never been criminalized. And criminalizing some of the stuff that the
junk bond department and Mike may have done as opposed to it being civil litigation. I think that’s one of the things that was
unfair. Yes, it then took Wall Street beyond that,
and yes, they became aggressive at a lot of figures on Wall Street. But I do think Mike was- and I think part
of it was because to be honest, he and Drexel became so powerful. And we really controlled what now was a multibillion-dollar
market. And I suspect, there were always rumors that
some of the pressure put on the SEC and the government may have come from competitors
on Wall Street, who just were trying to compete for this incredibly lucrative business but
were having a hard time. I wasn’t part of the conversation. So, I don’t know for sure. But that clearly was the rumor. ALEX ROSENBERG: And just one more thing is
does it make you look at Wall Street regulation has been really one of the big news stories
over the past 12 years- does it make you look at the new wave of Dodd Frank, and the way
that regulators look at these firms, does it make you look at all that differently,
having seen really the start of the regulations get created ad hoc, as you say? ART BILGER: Well, I do think regulation is
important. And we’re also living in really a totally
different world today from global markets and things like that. And so, I guess one might argue that regulation
is more important in a world that’s spread literally from around the globe and so many
different players and also, given the pace of what happens, so much of it is automatic
now. As I started my story when I was 16, I literally
carried securities and checks. In today’s world, it’s absolutely instantaneous. And a lot of it- and this is something else
I’m deeply involved in, but a lot of isn’t even about human beings doing stuff. So much of it is about technology and data
and analytics and things like that. So, I’m not opposed. I’m not opposed to regulation. But let’s make sure we keep the efficiency
of the markets allow value to be created. ALEX ROSENBERG: Sure. So, resuming the story then, tell us about
the beginnings of Apollo. ART BILGER: So, we ended February of 1990. And I think Leon Black, who I worked closely
with on various things, including co-heading the department at that point- Leon I think
was out in LA visiting family in April of ’90. We had breakfast together. And he said, Art, if I can pull together a
pool of capital, would you be interested in partnering with me and starting up a private
equity fund? And I said, sure. And then, I don’t know- Leon and I hadn’t
talked for a while. And then all of a sudden one day, he called
me. He says, Art, I think I got $800 million coming
our way. And I said, great. And I think we actually launched Apollo officially
July of 1990. ALEX ROSENBERG: Tell us about the initial
strategy that you came into Apollo with and how it went from there to again, the runaway
success of Apollo. ART BILGER: Right. Well, two things really influenced our strategy. First was, so people remembered the early
’90s, we went into a very fairly significant recession here in the United States. The second thing that happened is the primary
market maker party that had really will take control but had dramatic influence over the
junk bond market had disappeared. And so, the whole junk bond market just really
went into a tailspin because of the combination of those two things. And so, where we started and for the first
four years at Apollo, our whole business was into buying private equity, buying up some
company and leveraging, it was actually buying up the debt of bankrupt to near bankrupt companies. Because we were able to buy that debt so cheap. Because Drexel was gone in the economy. And then work those debt holdings either through
bankruptcy process or otherwise through negotiation to end up with a significant ownership positions
in those companies that we liked or even control over those companies. And if you think back, the first thing that
I worked on in 1977, when I joined Drexel, was the debt restructuring of an REIT. So, I was just back to- ALEX ROSENBERG: To the trailer park. ART BILGER: Back to a trailer park, exactly. So, that was our business for really the first
four years. ALEX ROSENBERG: Just to give us a better idea,
is there one company in particular, or one thing that was an early success that set the
stage for the rest of what you guys were doing there? ART BILGER: Obviously, there’s a small group
of us in LA and then Leon and others were in New York, so we did a lot of different
things. The ones that I could highlight and things
that I worked on- good example is Telemundo. It was in bankruptcy. You live in LA in 1992, you didn’t have to
be a genius to know Hispanic broadcasting might be a big opportunity. So, we bought up a significant- not a majority,
but a significant portion of Telemundo’s debt. And I was chairman of the creditors committee,
and from ’92 to ’94, worked through that whole bankruptcy process. And then we and other parties that we will
close with ended up with basically, significant ownership if not control of Telemundo. So, it’s a good example. I did that also with another TV broadcasting
company. And guys in New York did it with another TV
broadcasting company. And that was very monumental in terms of what
we did for a number of reasons, which I’ll explain, but also in terms of my life, and
also what we’ll ultimately talk about in terms of Working Nation. We had bought up the debt of Taft Broadcasting
or majority- a significant portion. And again, I was chairman of the creditors
committee, guys in New York bought up the debt of Gillett, George Gillett’s company
which had one or two broadcasters in it. And then what we did is we took those two
through bankruptcy. And then we took those two and one healthy
company broadcaster, merged them all together. And this we did, actually, with Ron Perlman
of Revlon Fame. And we put all three companies together. And then courtesy of a quarter of a billion-dollar
check from Rupert Murdoch, we changed all the affiliations. And they were largely CBS stations. We changed all the affiliations to Fox and
created the largest Fox affiliate group. Now, we were not New York, LA, Chicago, but
we were Tempe and Atlanta and Dallas and Detroit and Cleveland, and St. Louis, etc. And so, we became the largest Fox affiliate
group. ALEX ROSENBERG: Now, how do you find that
opportunity? Because it strikes me that if you’re looking
at companies of debt you can buy, it takes so much foresight and business strategy and
specific understanding of the television broadcasting space to say, oh, here’s some debt of this
company that looks like it has a horrible balance sheet. And then all the steps that it takes and the
strategy that it takes to sell that through for Murdoch down the road. I’m just curious how that worked internally. It just seems like such a massive effort and
something that’d be hard to even plan out. ART BILGER: It was a world that we knew quite
well. I did a lot of media stuff, as I like to tell
the story because it’s true. In 1985, I met a very interesting guy, Mike
Milken actually introduced him to me. And his last name was Turner. First name Ted. And I became investment banker for Turner
Broadcasting, and so I did a lot with Turner in buying MGM. I actually was the one who figured out singing
a ballet one night, I think it was in ’88- with my wife. And so, my mind was finally relaxed, and figured
out how to get $150 million into CNN, which was about to go bankrupt. I was the one who brought Ted- ALEX ROSENBERG: Good thing there’s a bore
in ballet I guess. ART BILGER: I was the one who brought Ted
to Hanna Barbera so we could start the Cartoon Network. This was post-Drexel. This is now Apollo. We had Apollo put up the money to make that
acquisition and start the Cartoon Network. Not necessary to tell him- so I had done,
and I did a lot of those also. Ted Turner’s probably the most notable of
them all. So, we actually had quite a bit of knowledge
within the firm, about the media and the broadcasting world. So, I don’t think it was all that hard. Plus, we really did understand how broken
the bond market was. We weren’t having to pay 90 cents on the dollar
for this stuff. This stuff, we’re buying it at 40 cents on
the dollar. And we knew there was no way. So, we had a pretty big, we can make a fair
number of mistakes. And still make plenty of money. ALEX ROSENBERG: Right. So, now, tell us about how you left Apollo
and eventually found yourself in the technology space really. I’m skipping a step here. ART BILGER: No. There was another broadcasting piece. So, what happened was in ’94, we were going
to go raise Apollo III. And I finally sat down with Leon, and I said,
I think I’ve had enough. One, you’re going to go raise a new fund,
you got to get locked in for 7, 8, 9 years. And effectively, I had done the same thing
for 17 years between 13 at Drexel and four at Apollo. And I just didn’t want to do it for another
7, 8, 9, 10 years. And obviously, I probably left a couple billion
on the table by doing that. But Leon and I worked out a deal that I’d
maintained my ownership interests and everything we had done before, I wouldn’t participate
in the next fund. When Ron Perlman heard that, he asked me to
go and run the TV broadcasting company that we had created. And that is what I did. I went in and ran it for probably about two
and a quarter years. So, I literally actually ran something. ALEX ROSENBERG: Yeah, so when we touched on
your expertise of what you learnt in the media space, but how was that different actually
running a business versus finding attractive opportunity? ART BILGER: It was definitely a challenge. Yes, I knew a lot about broadcasting, but
just the daily operations and having- and we had quite a bit of international assets
also. We had control over a fair number of soap
operas that we would sell abroad. But then we had the station, we also had a
number of NBC stations as well. Those we didn’t convert. But all the legal stuff that went on and all
the sales and I had learned a lot. It’s one thing to do deals, it’s another to
sit there and operate day to day. ALEX ROSENBERG: What was the hardest lesson
that you learned in starting to manage a business? ART BILGER: Because I had so much to learn
and because of my nature, I would really try to really learn each aspect of the business. Well, that made for very little sleep time. I’ve always traveled a tremendous amount,
but it was also traveling quite a bit because I was going around to the stations around
the country frequently. The other thing is we had some very notable
people- I was a novice at all this, but the guy who ran all of our content development
side of our business was Brandon Tartikoff. And this is Mr. NBC. And so, Brandon and I spent a fair amount
of time together. But it was interesting, I was the only one
who could greenlight a TV show. So, that was interesting. ALEX ROSENBERG: Well, what was that like. There’s Jack Walsh has a story and Jack talked
to me about how he- that TV development, he said is like the hardest thing he’d ever done
because everything else, he was just able to apply the Six Sigma approach and look at
it very, very cleanly. And TV development was like, that completely
affected him. ART BILGER: The fact is the reason I was the
only one who can greenlight a TV show, Ronald Paulo, etc. And this was a public, we had created a public
company. They all wanted it to be a broadcasting company. They did not want to be producing TV shows. But look, Brandon was there. Some good idea comes up. Maybe we’ll do it. But we clearly- Ronald Perlman had already
lost a lot of money in the TV producing world when he had bought New World Communications. By the way, the name of this entity that I
ended up running was New World Communications, we merged that as an entity. But Ronald had already lost a lot of money
in TV production, but broadcasting, much more stable type of business. And that’s why we really wanted to keep it
up. ALEX ROSENBERG: So, now, we go into the technology
sphere from right there to Akamai, or? ART BILGER: So, what happened was finally
about to two years later, Rupert shows up again, this time with the- ALEX ROSENBERG: The Ted, Rupert here on the
first name basis with this guy. ART BILGER: Shows up with an even bigger check
this time to buy a whole company. He decided what do I need, Art? Bilger telling me and my guys what they can
do, what they can’t do. And so, he showed up with a very large check. And the we accepted it pretty quickly. And I had to wait for government approval. And then shortly thereafter, I left. He didn’t need me. And I spent the next year and a half, looking
for what I’ll do next. And I looked at some pretty interesting things
again in around media. And then total fluke, I was at a charity board
meeting in September of ’98 in LA that I was on, I was actually quite involved. And a guy leans over and says, Art, you’re
not doing anything, I’d like you to come to Cambridge and meet the smartest human being
you’ll ever meet in your life. And I said, Sure. And next week, I got on a plane, flew to Boston,
went to MIT, and got a whiteboard session on how the internet worked and how this professor
and his student were going to remake the internet so that it would be much faster, and ultimately,
you’ll be able to watch heavy content as you can do today. I didn’t own a computer. I’m not sure if I knew what the internet was. But I got a whiteboard session from, again,
another amazing individual fellow named Danny Lewin, who was the PhD student, and the young
founder of Akamai Technologies. His professor, Tom Layton, was the other founder. So, that’s how I got to Akamai. ALEX ROSENBERG: Did you intuitively grasp
the importance of what they were doing? Because when I read accounts at that time,
it’s a lot of there were a lot of interesting technologies being developed. But the internet was not one of them. It was seen as like something else that’s
going on. Did you understand at least a little what
Akamai was doing could change the world, or? ART BILGER: The answer is yes to a degree,
let’s not go crazy. To a degree, yes, because of what I had just
been doing. If you think about the TV broadcasting world,
there’s a network and distribution is done locally. That’s effectively what Akamai was going to
do. Akamai was going to put servers all around
the globe. And then with algorithms, take, you could
put up content at your house or on some news organization, whatever, it gets pushed out
to the local servers. And because they’re local, close to people’s
homes or businesses, the content would be available so much faster. And thus, you could put much heavier content
out at also much quicker rate. So, the logic, that was the connection. The idea of local distribution, that I learned
at the New World. What happened then is Tom and Danny got very
interested in me getting involved, not because of my technology brilliance, but my ties to
all the big media companies, as well as my ties to money and Wall Street. And so, I became- when we did their first
round, the series A round of financing, I was one of the original investors. And I actually became vice chairman of the
company. And I got very deeply involved. I was probably flying to Boston every other
week, for the next two or three years. I got very deeply involved. One tried to learn as much as possible. But two, then I was the one who walked them
into CNN, I’m the one who walked them into Disney and Paramount and Warner, etc. And then I learned, and I learned a tremendous
amount. And Danny Lewin was one of the most amazing
people to ever work with. And Danny and I had developed a very strong
relationship. We worked very closely together. And the unfortunate punchline is the night
of September 10th, 2001, I had dinner with a guy trying to recruit a new head of sales
to Akamai. Tom and Danny were- I don’t remember all the
details of it. But we had to- a cousin of mine, I had met
some guy who could play that role. We screwed up with this guy a bit. Anyway, I had dinner September 10th with this
guy. Over dinner, he says, okay, I’m in. I’m willing to talk positively about this. I emailed Danny that night saying when are
you arriving in California, because I knew he was coming out, didn’t get a reply. The next morning, I got a call from one of
the other founders telling me that American Airlines has not confirmed it yet. But Danny was supposed to be a passenger on
the Boston-LA flight that ultimately was the first flight to crash into the World Trade
Center. About an hour or two later, they called me
back saying American Airlines had confirmed that Danny was on the plane. Danny was the first person to die on 911 because
no, he didn’t die in the crash. Given Danny’s background, I won’t be surprised. It’s written up in the 911 papers. Danny took on the terrorists on the plane
and I believe one came up from behind him and stabbed him. Danny had been born in Denver. Family moved to Israel when he was about 13
or 14, went through high school, didn’t have to go into the IDF because he was an American
citizen. But that’s not who Danny was. Danny became the captain of the most elite
anti-terrorist unit in the Israeli army, Sayeret Matkal. When he was done with that, he ultimately
went to Technion. When you talk to people at Technion, they’ll
tell you- Technion being the MIT of Israel. They’ll tell you Danny was a standout amongst
all standouts. Then I said, Danny, founder of Akamai, first
person to die and lead the world loss. He was 31 years old. The world loss- I often think about what would
Danny be doing today in this world that we’re living in today? So, that was a pretty influential- Danny was
very influential on my life. And that then led me into the tech world. And then I began doing venture capital investing
on a lot of different things. ALEX ROSENBERG: On a human level then, what
was it like for you and the other people at Akamai to deal with that tragedy and go on,
working on this vision that he helped create? ART BILGER: Well, we all got together and
agreed to that we would stay involved. I remember they asked me, Art, please stay
involved in it. Danny and I were quite close, and I agreed
to stay involved. And we worked very hard and you talk about
cycles, this may be the most unique stock valuation cycle in the history of the world. This may stand out all by itself. We raised the first round of- for that series
A round, we raised $8.4 million and $11 million pre-money valuation. Three months later, I raised for the company,
$20 million of notes and warrants and old trucks Burnham type currency, where the value
of the equity was struck at 150 million. ALEX ROSENBERG: So, when was this this? ART BILGER: So, this would be now March of
’99. In April of ’99, I was sent off to meet with
a guy in Silicon Valley who first, he wanted to buy the whole company. We said no. He wanted to buy 25% of the company. We said no. I was there to tell him he can buy, or his
company could buy 5% of the company. Plus, we want a $16 million revenue contract. This would be the first revenues at Akamai
for an 18-month period of time. The guy looked at me, he says, what’s the
valuation on the equity and rewards? And I said, $250 million. And he looked at me, said, you just sold equity
at $150 million a month ago. And like a dummy, I said, we had a good month. Anyway, he jumped out of his chair started
screaming at me, black turtleneck and all, because it was Steve Jobs. But he agreed to do the deal. So, the next three months later, we sell Cisco
5% of the company at a total valuation with the company of a billion dollars. So, Steve now had done over pretty well in
three months. We then three months later sold Microsoft
5% at a billion-five valuation. Two months later, we took it public. The initial pricing was at 2.6 billion. That day, it closed at 14 billion. It traded as high as 34.5 billion. And in October of 2002, the Akamai stock traded
at a total equity value for the company at $57 million from 34.5 billion to 57 million. And the incredible thing is for a company
to survive that and the fact that Akamai today is a real company and a key part of the backbone
of the internet. So, that was pretty amazing story and I lived
through all that. ALEX ROSENBERG: What could that have been
like inside the company? ART BILGER: Well, there was one thing and
I’ll take credit for it. There was one thing that gave us the opportunity
to survive. Again, the Drexel influence. When the stock was at about 20 billion- when
the company’s value was about 20 billion, I went to the board and said let’s do a convertible
bond deal. And let’s go raise $300 million in cash. And we actually did that. And so, a key reason that Akamai survived
is we were sitting with hundreds of millions of dollars of cash, even though we weren’t
a particularly mature company yet, but we had the cash to survive that cycle. And then a lot of it’s obviously then management,
human resources and all, it was a pretty tough environment. But there was a terrific group of people at
the company, both employees and then board members. ALEX ROSENBERG: But for early employees to
go from being given these shares and to become a multi-millionaire, hundred millionaire,
perhaps some became billionaires, and then to lose it while you’re still working at this
company is such a short period of time. It just was- ART BILGER: Literally, well before the crash,
I remember board meeting was January of whatever year, I was hooked in by phone. I was in LA. I couldn’t make it to Boston for some reason. And I really started pushing hard on the management
to advise the employees to not look at the value of their holdings as real. Don’t go and buy some very expensive house
and put a giant mortgage on it. Because I promise you, this value won’t be
there. I remember the original receptionist at Akamai,
at one point, her position was worth like $10 million. And management did really try to keep employees
from losing sight of what reality was. And so, they did a really great management
team. They did a very good job. ALEX ROSENBERG: From there, we get to- I want
to talk about Working Nation, which is what you’re working on now. And I think now, people can understand the
scope of the experiences you’ve had that have led to it. So, tell us, first of all, what Working Nation
is and what the problem is that you’ve identified. ART BILGER: Working Nation is a not for profit
media enterprise to educate the people of our nation with as to what I believe is the
most significant issue we face. And that is a potential massive structural
unemployment. But then, the center of the bullseye of our
mission is to then educate people across this country as to where the jobs in the future
will be. And what are the mitigating strategies and
solutions. And I really do believe this is coming on
much faster. And there’s clearly more understanding today
than when I first started thinking about this, it started coming together might have five
and a half years ago. But I’m still amazed at how little understanding
there is. But also, so few people are really talking
about solutions. And so, the two words that are associated
with Working Nation to the greatest degree and pretty unique is one, solutions. And two, storytelling. The slope of the curve of the change in jobs
and skills when measured against time has never been so steep. And my belief is we can’t wait around for
conferences and white papers to educate the people of this country. And in today’s digital world, in particular,
the power of storytelling is very powerful. ALEX ROSENBERG: So, let’s start with the problem
as you see it, I guess, where in your career, did you start to be aware of the what you
call it the potential massive unemployment caused by technology? When did you become aware of that? And why did you think it was such a such a
concern really? ART BILGER: Well, it was really the entry
into the Akamai world. And then my active involvement for a lot of
venture capital type stuff after that. And I wasn’t just a passive investor. Anything I’d invest in, I would play a reasonably
active role. And so, I got a very good look at how fast
technology was changing the world that we were living in. And one of the things being jobs. And so, the fact that this all came together,
it’s not that crazy. I was watching it. But the other thing, and I’ll add really the
third leg on the stool, so I’ve talked about my media experience, I’ve talked about my
technology experience. The third leg on the stool that helped bring
this all together in my head was in 2002, Mike Milken came to me and asked me if I would
invest in an online education company that he and his brother and Larry Ellison of Oracle
were launching. And I looked at it, and I finally said to
Mike, I’ll invest, but only if I can go on the board and on the executive committee,
because I have no idea if I’m going to make any money. But I want to learn about this. And the reason is, I was already net thinking
about the idea of education and technology. Because my kids were going to the finest private
schools in Los Angeles, and five miles down the road, you can find a very different circumstance. And so, I was due to my Akamai experience,
and so I said, okay, there are platforms out there that my kids are getting exposed to,
others could get exposed to via technology. So, as I said, I was already thinking about
it, Mike approached me with the first one. I did go on the board and on the executive
committee. I was very actively involved and stayed on
the board I think about six years. I dropped off the board the week before we
filed to go public, because I didn’t really feel like being on a public company board. That opened up me to a lot of education technology
investing over the years. So, it’s really those three- media, technology
and education, which really came together by head and started about five and a half
years ago. But I’ve pretty much spent the bulk of all
my time ever since then focused on it. ALEX ROSENBERG: So, I guess the naive question
would be, well, unemployment is lower than it ever has been before besides maybe World
War II. So, what’s the problem that you see about
the problem looming about unemployment? And then how bad do you think that could cultivate? ART BILGER: First of all, the numbers you’re
referring to are totally misleading. They’re not representative at all. The workforce participation rate is at one
of the lowest levels that it’s ever been in. And if you’re not a participant, if you haven’t
looked for a job within some period of time, you are not counted in the denominator. We’re sitting with millions of people who
are either not counted or are considered to be employed, but they’re not fully employed. That individual who used to work 40 hours
a week on some assembly line. And all of a sudden, that assembly line’s
gone, and now, they’re working 20 hours a week driving Uber, or whatever, they are considered
employed. And so, the 3.7, or 3.9- I don’t know what
number they’re talking about now totally misrepresents what the reality is out there today. ALEX ROSENBERG: You’re concerned more around
automation and assembly line jobs, these kinds of- even the jobs of drivers with driverless
cars, is that what’s causing that slope of that curve to be so high? ART BILGER: There are really four variables
coming together at this all at the same time like never before in history. First is globalization. Okay, globalization is good in terms of demand
for product, but also you got workforce out there that becomes available. Second being technology. And we’ve talked about artificial intelligence
and all kinds of other technology. Third is longevity. If we keep people alive longer, you’re keeping
units of labor in the workforce or available for the workforce for much longer. And then the fourth variable is broken education. Particularly when you consider education,
given the other three factors that are having such dramatic influence. And so, it’s those four things coming together
like never before in history, is what underlies, I believe, one, the slope of the curve. And the two other things I want to highlight
in terms of what really motivates what we’re doing. This time, it’s about the heart of America. And yes, it’s also about the bottom 20%. But this time, it’s also about the heart of
America. And the two examples I’ve used for years is
the driverless vehicle. I’ve been using that example for probably
over five years. I think driving for living is like the number
one job in 32 states in this nation. These are middle-class jobs. And I don’t know if it’s five years, or 10
years, or 15 or 20 years, but those jobs are going to be disappearing. The other example I’ve used for a very long
time, because it’s an area I’m very deeply involved in, is how a marketing department
of 20 will become a marketing department of two because of data and analytics. And those eight jobs disappearing are excellent,
white collar, middle class and upper middle-class jobs in New York, in LA, in Chicago and Delaware,
throughout the country. And data and analytics is literally going
to have that type of impact on so many different, I believe, there won’t be an aspect of business
government of the not for profit world that isn’t driven by data and analytics. That’s the bad news in terms of jobs being
lost. But I actually also believe data and analytics
jobs will be the fastest growing job area in this country. And just to go back on the founding fund,
my wife and I are the founding funders of the Wharton School’s whole data and analytics
program. This dates back to ’07-’08, when I sat down
with the then new dean of the Wharton School, and I’d never met him before. He’s a marketing professor. And I said, Tom, I used to be in the business
of selling bad data. And he looked at me strangely, and I said,
I used to run a TV broadcasting company. The data was bullshit. The advertisers knew it was bullshit. But that’s how we sold advertising and price
to advertising. And I said to him, I said, within the next
five to 10 years, we will be able to match a single individual with a single piece of
content with a single economic opportunity, and it will all be data driven. And if it’s data driven, shouldn’t the Wharton
School jump on it? And to Tom Robertson’s credit, he said, let’s
go. And about eight months later, we launched
what today is called the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative. And it’s all about data analytics and in the
consumer world. And then the Wharton School has since took
a long time for them to get there but launched a major in data and analytics in September
of 2016. And of those, both MBA and the undergrad level,
and of those students who have had to choose a major since September of ’16, 30% have chosen
data and analytics. And the lead professor, when he announced
to the board I remember about a year ago, he fully believes within three to four years,
data and analytics will be a bigger major at the Wharton School than finance. ALEX ROSENBERG: So, this leads us to the solutions
that you see to this problem? Is it around educating people and just changing
the education system or educating people around the right industries, or? ART BILGER: Well, it’s first, highlighting
what will be the jobs of the future. And yes, data and analytics is obviously a
big area. Listen, health care, it’s the biggest industry
in this country. Health care jobs are going to grow. They’re going to change dramatically, but
they’re going to grow very dramatically. A lot of the aging of the population just
being an example. I believe the not for profit world will be
a big growth area, unfortunately, big growth area from an employment standpoint. Cyber security jobs are going to grow tremendously. So, what we- our team at Working Nation, and
we’ve got an incredible team of really experts. Our first job is really searching out where
those jobs will be and really engaging with all kinds of think tanks and other really
very knowledgeable organizations and people. And then figuring out where are the solutions. And we are very focused on the fact that solutions
are local- corporations, not for profits, academic entities and local government. What they are doing in debates, it’s not to
say federal tax policy and budget policy can’t have influence, but the solutions themselves
are really at the local level. So, what our team has been doing, we’ve really
been up and running with researchers and others for probably about four and a half years now. We are searching for those solutions out there,
with the goal of telling the story of those solutions through the people who have gone
through those solution type setups. ALEX ROSENBERG: Not having a job now in the
United States is very different from not having a job in the United States 200 years ago,
when you literally might have starved to death or died of hypothermia or pick a reason. It reminds one of the Keynes’ remark that
in the future, we’ll all work eight hours. And maybe driving an Uber for eight hours
a week, you could have all the comforts that they had when Keynes was writing that. So, I guess- and this is part of the universal
basic income idea that while we’re making so much money now, we can just give people
money to deal with. So, I guess, yeah, I’m leading the witness
here. But why is that not the approach you’re taking
to these problems? ART BILGER: I am confronted frequently by
the universal basic income concept, sitting, having breakfast or lunch with someone, they’ll
go, oh, that’s the solution. My response from day one is one, I have no
idea how you pay for it. But two, very importantly, it leaves out I
think, a very important piece of the equation. And that is the linkage between employment
and purpose in life. I started thinking about that probably about
three and a half years ago, when I started thinking about my own life. And putting aside dollars and cents, thought
about all the different things I did, and the opportunities to work with Mike Milken
and Ted Turner and Danny Lewin, etc. That was pretty motivating. I probably would have done it even if I wasn’t
paid, but good, I got paid. And so, that actually started. I was up in Palo Alto at a think tank up there
that I was talking to about, then someone said something that caused me to start thinking
about my own life. So, then I next went to start thinking about
the assembly line worker, and to what extent is their employment. An important piece of their purpose in life. And after talking to some people and I ultimately
concluded they too, they show up for work, they’re working with friends, compatriots,
they’re producing something, they’re bringing home income to feed and educate the family. They’re part of the community. And so, I said, okay, it’s different to my
life, but I said, I really think there’s a tie. And then what happened sometime shortly after
that, a woman shows up in my office, who I know from my past life, from my New World
day, she shows up in my office with the movie rights to Victor Frankel’s book Man’s Search
for Meaning. A book that I was aware of, but I had never
read, I had no interest in making a movie, but did cause me to read it. And I said, wow, this really ties in with
my idea of the linkage of meaning in life and purpose and fulfillment. It really got me thinking quite a bit about
it. For those who aren’t aware, that book is sitting
on the Library of Congress’s 10 most influential books ever published in the United States. I am sure I’m the largest purchaser of it. Because as I go around on Working Nation meetings,
like this week in New York, I probably promised at least 10 people I met with this week. And for those who have not read it, sorry,
I can’t send it to you, but you can go buy it from Amazon or whoever else. But it’s a fabulous, quick read. And it’s really an eye opener. What then happened during the first quarter
of ’16, I turned on the TV show, Morning Joe. And Steve Ratna, the investment and economics
guy who was on the show frequently, first chart showed how life expectancy of white
males had begun to decline for the first time in history. And then the second chart showed causes and
showed a major spike up in addiction and suicide. And I said, okay, how does that tie in with
what’s going on here and the pain that really does exist out there in society? And then Nicholas Eberstadt at the American
Enterprise Institute during the second quarter of ’16 heard about what I was doing. He had recently written a book, Men Without
Work. And I met with him in Washington at one point
when I was there. And he had a statistic, something like 16%
of the white working age males- and that’s defined 25 to 54, are either unemployed, underemployed
or have withdrawn from the workforce. Well, that’s very different than what people
were talking about going back to the point about the unemployment rate. And then, a couple months later, we all watch
both the Donald Trump and the Bernie Sanders movements explode that summer. And to me, it was a no brainer. I said, there are millions of people in this
country that are in pain, either economic pain, or emotional pain, purpose in life pain,
might be themselves or might be other family members, other friends in the community, but
there are millions of people in pain. And I really believe when we look at out the
course of the political environment, what has gone on since then, very few talked about
how- blame a lot of the stuff on the political environment. But so few talked about what underlies the
political environment. And I really believe yeah, there are other
things besides the stuff I’m focused on. But I do think the stuff I’m focused on is
a pretty key part of what’s driving the political environment. ALEX ROSENBERG: So, looking down the road,
I guess, it’s that we’ve always had technological change, but that now, it’s happening faster,
and that’s leading to more displacement, which is leading people to lose the purpose of life. And if you look out 20 or 30 or 50 years,
if this trend continues, I guess to me, that either people have to find new work in the
post-agrarian period, or whatever you want to call it, or people have to find other ways
to find their purpose in life and to find meaning without work. ART BILGER: Let me give you actually, what
I think is maybe the toughest piece of the entire equation. I mentioned the way I usually talk about it
is three motivations for me and for Working Nation. One was the slope of the curve, two as I addressed
this time, it’s about the heart of America, and how the bottom 20% will become the bottom
30% and bottom 40% and 50%. The third one, and I think is the toughest
one is never before have we had to reskill and reeducate old 48-year-olds. And I’m using 48 generically to coverS people
in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and that is a very tricky thing. It’s one thing to be able to educate young
children, and up right through college and community college. Also, the whole idea of instilling the lifelong
learning mentality in people. When I speak to big K through 12 educational
groups, I tell them, look, you don’t need me to talk about STEM education, you hear
enough about that. I’m not an educator, so I can’t really offer
you a lot. But the one thing I will offer you is I think
one of the most important, if not the most important things you can do with young students
is instill in them the idea of lifelong learning, because I don’t care who you are, no one’s
going into a job and staying there for 35 years without radical changes in that, or
the fact that they’re going to be going into a lot of different jobs over time. So, lifelong learning is, I think, a very,
very important piece of the equation, which you can work with young people. But boy, starting out with that 48-year-old
who finished high school at the age of 18. Now, it’s 30 years ago, was the last time
they sat in the classroom. So, I think that’s really one of the toughest
pieces of this whole equation. ALEX ROSENBERG: So, I want to close by looking
back at the investment and finance world. So, since you started 50 years ago as a runner- ART BILGER: Oh, don’t make me sound so old- ALEX ROSENBERG: Well, people can do the math
and they’ll figure that out. ART BILGER: I should have told you I was a
runner in 1990. ALEX ROSENBERG: In all the changes you’ve
seen in the financial world, and frankly, have helped to affect some of them, how does
that make you look at the world of finance differently, either from the perspective of
someone who’s maybe entering the industry now, or of an investor who’s trying to find
their way and find something that works for them? The field of investment is not immune from
these high slipping changes, either. ART BILGER: I think this has dramatic implications
on the investment world. And I’m not sure that it’s, as I said earlier,
it’s I don’t think it’s really understood to a meaningful degree. I am being invited now to speak- I ‘m actually
pointing back two weeks, three weeks, to a security and investment firm. They’ve heard about what I was doing, they
want me to come and speak to as many of their people who want to come hear it. I was probably a couple years ago, major foundation,
who I know one of the trustees well. All of a sudden, I get an email from the Chief
Investment Officer of the foundation. And we get on the phone, I was out of the
country. When I get back, get on the phone with her. And she says, Art, I’d like you to come present
to the Investment Committee of our foundation, because the stuff that you’re talking about
can have broad implications for the investment world. So, anyway, an example I always use is an
activist hedge fund guy, who I know well, and I’m setting and having lunch with him,
was about three years ago. And I laid a lot of this out to him. Six months later, I looked at his portfolio,
and there were two positions missing. And I said, Matt, what happened to- well,
we were together again, why are those two positions gone? And he said, Art, because I had lunch with
you. And basically, it was the stock of two middle
class restaurant chains. And his logic was the middle class is getting
squeezed economically. One of the easy things you can do without
is an extra meal out with the family or friends or whatever. You can’t do without oxygen, but an extra
meal at a restaurant chain, you can do that. So, I do think there are much broader implications
out there. Now, I think at the same time, there’s also
some really interesting opportunities. I’ll give you one area that I’m focused on
from an investment standpoint, is continuing in the whole area of education, technology,
and training. I’m searching for that augmented reality or
virtual reality technology solutions to focus on training and education. Because going back to my comment about the
48-year-old, you’re not putting them back in a classroom. Maybe through get on these really interesting
type technologies, we might be able to do something. I remember the first time I put on augmented
reality goggles, and I was taught how to install all of the plumbing fixtures in the bathroom. Now, I don’t need a plumber anymore. ALEX ROSENBERG: All right, I think we’ll leave
it at that. Art, thank you so much for sitting down with
us. That was a really interesting story. ART BILGER: Thank you. Thank you for having me. This is great. Thanks for the opportunity.

100 Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *