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Bruce Berkowitz on the Keys to Success for Fairholme Funds


dcollon
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  • 1 year later...

http://online.barrons.com/article/SB50001424052748703927304576637270740785508.html?mod=BOL_hpp_mag

 

But a civil suit filed last year in a Miami state court by a fired analyst might fill in some blanks. The plaintiff, David Ahl, contends that Fairholme was a hostile working environment. He recounts how he came to Fairholme as a telecom-industry consultant in 2003 and then a full-time analyst in 2006. When Berkowitz told his portfolio team that they needed to join him in Florida, Ahl bought a $3 million condo in Coconut Grove in September 2007. A few months later, says Ahl, Berkowitz installed Fernandez as boss of Fairholme's portfolio management team, overseeing Ahl, Pitkowsky and Trauner. Fernandez also brought in new directors and officers to Fairholme, such as Treasurer Paul R. Thomson, who had worked for Fernandez at the unprofitable Big City Radio. Fairholme has denied Ahl's allegations.

 

Charlie Fernandez seemed as though he was connected to everyone in Miami—he'd married four times by the age of 45—and his network included South Florida mayors, police chiefs and pension-fund trustees. Acquaintances note that, at the time, Berkowitz had just lost a key mentor with the death of Fairholme director Joel Uchenick. Fernandez and Berkowitz hit it off. Berkowitz lent Fernandez the money to buy the mansion next door, and then forgave the mortgage. They visited Fernandez's favorite after-hours spots, in ponytails and guayabera shirts.

 

In his lawsuit, David Ahl complains that Fernandez had no experience in securities analysis or portfolio management. Public records show that Fernandez had plenty of experience in business and politics, however. At hearings of New Jersey's Casino Control Commission in 1999, Bally Entertainment magnate Arthur Goldberg had to explain why his firm shouldn't lose its Atlantic City license after funneling secret payments to Florida Assembly Speaker Bolley "Bo" Johnson through a political action committee.

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