The low-profile firm's high-profile deals - Dodgers, Dick Clark Productions, Hollywood Reporter - were orchestrated not by Chief Executive Mark Walter but by Guggenheim's super-caffeinated president, Todd Boehly. For all their differences (Walter is described as "the sort of dependable guy you'd imagine running your local bank if Frank Capra were making movies today"), they share one not-so-modest ambition: Becoming billionaires. Guggenheim has two sides: The sober, risk-averse operation that manages $170 billion for institutions, individuals, and insurance companies; and the wild-and-crazy acquisition arm that gathers investors on a deal-by-deal basis - folks like Magic Johnson who were brought in for the Dodger purchase. The Fortune profile is one of the few times that the Guggenheim people have sat down to talk.
These days Boehly is most excited about the potential of live events. Sports, concerts, awards shows -- these primetime happenings, he believes, will continue to draw huge viewership and ad revenue despite splintered TV audiences. "As the world becomes more and more fragmented, and content becomes more and more commoditized, that premium content is only going to be become more valuable," says Boehly. The Dodgers hit Boehly's sweet spot: a live events business that Guggenheim could buy using its insurance assets and those of its clients. Boehly and Walter had been skeptical when former Braves president Stan Kasten first floated the idea of buying a baseball team. But when news broke in 2011 that the Dodgers would go on the block, Guggenheim zeroed in on a crucial detail: The team's TV deal was expiring after the 2013 season. Many people believed a new contract might bring in $3.5 billion over its lifetime. Boehly thought that figure was ludicrously low.
Time Warner Cable wound up cutting a partnership deal with the Dodgers that is said to be worth around $7 billion. Guggenheim also had been mentioned as a possible bidder for Anschutz Entertainment Group, but the Fortune piece says that the firm has backed off because of the rich $8 billion to $10 billion price tag. One more intriguing nugget: The SEC has been investigating Michael Milken's dealings with Guggenheim and whether they violate the former junk bond king's ban from the securities industry. Milken is a Guggenheim client.
The question is: Does Milken provide advice in exchange for some form of compensation? The SEC is looking at a number of transactions that Milken has done with Guggenheim, including the Milagro deal. Boehly has been subpoenaed by the SEC, and the firm has provided thousands of trading records and e-mails to investigators. The agency has contacted Guggenheim clients about Milken. SEC investigators are in regular communication with Guggenheim, but so far the probe -- which has continued for two years -- hasn't resulted in any formal action. Walter says, "Mike doesn't have an ownership or managerial role in the firm in any way, shape, or form." A spokesperson for Milken provided a statement noting that with regard to the advice he gave that led to his 1998 settlement with the SEC, Milken had been advised by his attorney that he was permitted to engage in those specific consulting transactions.