Thursday, May 19, 2011

Who Owns Games Workshop?

by SandWyrm


It's a decent question. Who owns the company we're all mad at right now? Who should we really be voicing our concerns about the company's future to?

Let's look at the top 6 stockholders, as listed in GW's 2010 annual report. Which can be downloaded from the GW Investor Relations site.

Shares Percentage
The Nomad Investment Partnership LP 7,414,887 23.8
Investec Asset Management 5,768,410 18.5
Phoenix Asset Management Partners Limited 4,190,607 13.5
Shroeder Investment Management Limited 2,801,604 9.0
Tom Kirby (Chairman of GW) 1,913,001 6.1
Polar Capital Partners 1,162,220 3.7
Total: 23,250,729 74.6

(Shroeder appears in the annual report, but not on the shareholder statistics page. Interesting.)

So, nearly three-quarters of GW stock is owned by Tom Kirby and these five institutions. Let's look at each institution's contact info. But first, let's get our objective clear:

We do not want to hurt GW! We do not want these institutions to dump their stock or punish anyone. What we want is for these financial professionals to ask the hard questions of GW that they won't give their customers the time of day on. These professionals manage hundreds, if not thousands, of investments in various companies around the globe. So we're simply seeking to grab a bit more of their attention and point it at GW.

We want GW to thrive, both now and 10+ years from now. Speaking as loyal and concerned customers, we're concerned about GW's actions within a shrinking market and it's apparent failure to either grow that market or it's own share of that market. We're concerned that GW is valuing short term gain over long term viability. We're concerned about product quality issues and pricing that will push us into the arms of GW's competitors. We're concerned about GW's apparent lack of regard for the frustrations of it's customers. We're concerned that they're de-facto abandoning their Australian market.

DO NOT go off on them about dividends or price increases for their own sake. These guys benefit from large dividends and strong stock prices. Remember that.

DO NOT get emotional or make their eyes glaze over by mentioning details of the hobby. To them, GW sells PRODUCT, not Marines, Tyrannids, Specialist games, etc. If you start telling them how you've collected army X since 19XX, they won't care. Stay focused. Be respectful. Tell them about your love of GW, not the hate.

Now, on to the external owners:
The Nomad Investment Partnership LP
PO Box 61 GT
Harbour Centre, George Town
Grand Cayman KY1-1102, Cayman Islands
British West Indies

Director: Qais Zakaria
Phone: +44 207 101 196 (UK Phone Number)
Caymen Islands eh? Shady. Mr. Zakaria is also the director of:
Sleep, Zakaria & CO Ltd.
1A BURNSALL St
London, 8001 SW3 3SR
United Kingdom
If you do a little digging, you'll find that Sleep, Zakaria & CO are simply hired managers for Nomad. Who really owns Nomad? Who knows. It could be The Queen, Arabs, the Russian Mob, or the Pope for all we know. They don't seem to want to attract investors (no website or email). So it's likely just a front for some rich guys who don't want attention.

Anyhow, they're unlikely to care about price increases. Guys this shady only care about the immediate bottom line, and GW's looks good based on the published numbers alone. So if you contact them, concentrate on the Australia embargo and the immediate impact you fear it may have on earnings. But don't expect any sort of reply. They'll be annoyed enough that they're getting mail and public attention in the first place.

Next up, we have a group that's far less shady. With multiple offices throughout the world. I've listed their registered address, but there's offices in every major country listed on their website.
Investec Asset Management Limited
2 Gresham Street, London, EC2V 7QP.
Telephone: +44(0)20 7597 1900
Email: investor@investecmail.com
Website: http://www.investecassetmanagement.com
You can buy into these guys (if you have more money than I do), so they're likely to be more responsive to concerns about GW's long-term viability, at least publicly. Expect a form-letter reply, but if enough of us contact them, there may be some probing questions asked behind the scenes.
Phoenix Asset Management Partners
64 - 66 Glentham Road
London SW13 9JJ
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 208 600 0100
Fax: +44 (0) 208 600 0101
Email: phoenix@pamp.co.uk
Website: http://www.phoenixassetmanagement.com/
Low key, with the simplest of websites. But they're approachable enough that they give you tube directions to their London offices. :)
Shroeder Investment Management Limited
31 Gresham Street, London, EC2V 7QA
Website: http://www.schroders.com/global/home/
General Inquiry Form: http://www.schroders.com/global/contact-us/contact-form
Low key, but professional looking.
Polar Capital Holdings plc
4 Matthew Parker Street
London
SW1H 9NP
Email: investor-relations@polarcapital.co.uk
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7227 2700
Website: http://www.polarcapital.co.uk/
They make you affirm that you're a professional investor before you can even look at their 'Who Are We' page. So they may not be responsive at all to the public. You make the call.

In closing, I'll repeat it again... BE RESPECTFUL. Asshatery will get us nowhere.

23 comments:

  1. Nice bit of research, but GW has followed a premium pricing model for about 10 years or so. What makes you think that this latest round of price hikes will break the company? Or more specifically, what sort of proof could be presented to these professional investors that this strategy is failing? Even if GW is going off the deep end, the company could continue to posts dividends for years to come - and that's all that matters to these companies.

    Bit spooky about Nomad. Very strange that a mysterious company would own a quarter of GW. I wonder what else they own.

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  2. Going public and being owned by these sorts of companies are WHY you see the price hikes that you see, despite annual reductions in operating and production costs.

    So long as the company's officers and employees are basically all beholden to quarterly investment/earnings calls and providing as high a ROI/margin to these guys as possible, you're always going to see a fiscal approach that is oriented around the bottom line, and milking profit.

    There's also a widespread business world notion that simple revenue is not enough ... margin is what "matters," ... I literally had one of our former CEO's look at a guy in a meeting and say "Any idiot can grow revenue."

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  3. Ok - Nomad is not all that spooky. Just an investment group with holdings in a few different companies. Looks like they starting investing in 2006 and bought heavily in 2008 when the share price fell.

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  4. I agree with MVB. These guys are the problem, not the solution.

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  5. The issue is how they're responding to the global recession with one of their highest price rises ever. That plus the rises from the resin switch, their new independent stockist terms, and the embargo on shipments to the southern hemisphere, make me think that they must be very desperate for some reason to pull all of this unpopular crap at once. It's unusual, even for GW. They're not THAT stupid.

    Either sales in this quarter are already tanking, or there are shenanigans going on behind the scenes (Off-book debts/obligations? Stock Manipulation? Enron-style accounting? Executives trading on margin?) that made these moves necessary in order to shore up their public numbers.

    Those numbers look fine at first glance, good even. But there's a pretty wide delta on the stock's hi/low range that speaks to a lot of volatility. I smell something fishy even if I can't put my finger on it.


    But, even if GW is not in an immediate crisis of any sort, they're still in a shrinking market. They're still bleeding market share within that market. Some of the moves they've done to shore up their short term cash flow will hurt that further. Such as under-staffing stores and cutting development staff. The former will reduce the number of new players they attract (already less than replacement level), while the latter will cause more bleeding of existing players (which is happening in earnest right now).

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  6. SandWyrm, I admire the way you've been going about this. You've headed for the essence of the problem.

    While GW is a plc I worry may as well forget about anything except a temporary alleviation. Mike Brandt is right on the key issue.

    The money of an investor can be out of one place and into another before the majority have hard facts, and if an investor is making day-to-day decisions in a place, this could be all the truer.

    My thinking on GW at the moment is that we'd all be better off without. If the company passed quietly and slowly all the key stakeholders, including staff, could move their investments of emotion, time and money elsewhere. The pain for us all would fade quickly.

    The talented people could start their own successors, the players too, with fresh ideas for a new generation of settings and games. I know I'd prefer more options to less.

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  7. How can we create an investment company with the sole purpose of buying GW stock and take the company private? I do realize that the company is worth quite a bit by now, but what the heck, I'd put in some money if I could. And all dividends (I hope that's the right term) paid out would be used to purchase more stock until the company would have enough votes to stop any dividends and use that money for investments (quicker releases of codexes!) instead.

    I know, I know, a guy can dream :)

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  8. Someone tell me when the nose dive starts. I'll want to sell off all this metal and plastic before GW sinks into the inky blackness.

    Hell, I might do it anyway, although I'll be dreadfully bored without something to work on...

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  9. Having talked to many ex-employees over the years, I can confirm that you are on to something here, but that your overall premise is wrong. These investment groups hold a number of British pensions. These companies tend to invest in long term companies that don't have a lot of ups and downs and can provide long-term solvency.

    GW makes their decisions based on two factors. 1) The understanding that the average player of their game runs in a five year cycle, with a majority of players leaving the game and selling off or giving away their armies to newer players looking to get into the game and 2) the interest of protecting the pensioners invested in their company. These decisions are NOT about short term gains; they are about protecting the company over a long period of time.

    Are Australians getting gouged? Yeah. Probably. But that has more to do with their 15AUD ($16 US) minimum wage, which is over twice the minimum wage in the US. Add the cost of importation and you get a price structure that makes sense to some bean counter in GW. Aussies are complaining that they have to pay more than people of countries with poorer citizens. 54% of US citizens make less than Australian minimum wage, which no doubt is why we have cheaper prices. I don't necessarily agree with this idea, but I understand it.

    Just some things to think about while you are researching this.

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  10. Interesting point, cargill. Very thought-provoking.

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  11. @cargill Add to that the cost of living. I pay through my nose for things like insurance here in the US while when I lived in Sweden I paid far less for insurance and didn't have to worry about health care insurance. So it's not just minimum wage, it's a whole host of parameters.

    GW's issue is that they are getting away from the "sweet" spot which would create both growth and revenue.

    On that note, GW needs a skirmish version of 40k/fantasy, and invest in some of their other games (Battlefleet Gothic was a hoot, and if they made all of them in plastics it should be pretty cheap). Some new vision instead of stuff like Planet Strike and such.

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  12. A very interesting post, thanks for making it.

    I've written a letter to GW although I'm not sure whether it will have any impact or not.

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  13. GW won't care. These guys might. Even if only in a "Hey Kirby! Why are your sheep so riled up? Get your house in order." sense.

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  14. I think it's a pretty interesting approach, it could well have a pretty major effect, especially if you can show case stories of extreme detrimental impact with the long term viability of the business. These big investment firms want constant returns. Dividend payments and solid long term value.

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  15. Because of the other Kirby Sandy. Because of the other Kirby.

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  16. Hmmmnnn... How do I know you're not the same Kirby? ;)

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  17. I received a reply from Phoenix Asset Management a few hours after e-mailing my complaint. Here's his first reply:

    Hi ---,

    Thanks for your email.

    Have you got 10 minutes to go over your points in a bit more detail? Games Workshop is one of several companies in which we have a stake – we have no say in the running of the company but I’d be interested to hear your views on the product.

    Let me know when suits.

    Regards,
    ---

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  18. @Dis I'll be damned. I hope you used your power wisely :)

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  19. I answered his questions in a separate e-mail focusing on the quality vs. cost exchange without getting too detailed about specifics, while stating my desire to continue blowing money on 40K. I just hope I don't get a "Frag you very much" e-mail from the CEO.

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  20. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!

    I grew up with a Father who is a high powered investment banker. I have been saying for the last few years on every forum I can that the answer to the problem is to take the concerns directly to the investors.

    Even if they dump the stock and drive the price in the toilet it will not kill GW. Or even hurt it. What it will do is either cause the investors to confront management or they will dump their holding drive down the price and controlling interest will be bought by another group who will see to it that management is replaced.

    This level of mismanagement makes you wonder if there is an attempt to drive the stockdown so it can be bought out cheap by people with in GW. Illegal as hell but companies have been taken over before from with in by using that tactic. Its real hard to prove in court that you should not have been such an idiot.

    The real danger GW might face that could literally destroy the company is if these big institutional investors sue the company for mismanagement. A large settlement in their favor could result in GW being sold off in pieces to pay the settlement.

    By notifying the investors at this point you give the people who would have the greatest case the chance to either get out or change policy. We would in a very odd way be protecting GW from itself.

    either way, bringing to the attention of the investors that their money is tied up in a company that may literally see its sells cut in half over the next year will wake them right the heck up one way or another.

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  21. Good job Dis! Now let's get them some more opinions and get cracking on the other guys!

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  22. It should never have gone onto the stock market. It is OUR hobby, not another fishing line for an already fat fisherman. I flicked through a White Dwarf for the first time in years, I almost cried. My one time source of information, that gave me my first glance into two gaming universes that fascinated my teenage years, that put me in the minds of older gamers, that improved my vocabulary and made me more interested in history, magic, space and civilisations, is now a glossy picture book with grinning idiots with perfectly groomed haircuts and cheesy smiles.
    Rereading a Black Library novel reopened my interest, like opening a wound. Probably best I forget it all ever existed, as always Capitalism wins over spirit, vitality and artistic endeavour.
    R.I.P Warhammer 1983-2013
    R.I.P Warhammer 40,000 1987-2013

    ReplyDelete

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