Studying successful entrepreneurs is great; I am looking forward to reading Brad Stone’s new book, Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire. But studying unsuccessful ones can be more enlightening. As Charlie Munger says, “All I want to know is where I’m going to die so I’ll never go there.” The trouble is that there are few books written about unsuccessful entrepreneurs. The next best thing is a parliamentary hearing. This week, Lex Greensill, founder of Greensill Capital, appeared in front of the UK House of Commons Treasury Committee to help lawmakers understand what went wrong.
The Chair of the Committee cited the piece Steve Clapham and I wrote back in July last year warning of problems at Greensill. Lex Greensill didn’t confirm if he’d read it but replied that he didn’t become concerned about the position of his business until December. His view is that the failure of his firm rests with the insurance company that denied him cover. He even used the opportunity to give the Committee a recommendation: “…one of the real lessons from the failure of my firm… is that a heavy reliance on trade credit insurance is dangerous. I urge you and the Committee to consider the manner in which that is regulated, because it is fundamentally counter cyclical in its behaviour.”
No surprise that he would deflect. The firm failed because it was riddled with conflicts of interest, carried heavy customer concentrations and grew too fast. The problem with unsuccessful entrepreneurs is that they may be less than honest.
Author(s): Marc Rubinstein
Publication Date: 14 May 2021
Publication Site: Net Interest at substack