The high school dropout who built a $900m fortune by finding bargains

1 week ago 20
By Ben Stupples and Katie Linsell

May 26, 2023 — 6.21am

Ken Moelis precocious sold his residence astatine New York’s Plaza Hotel to a chap dealmaker with a acold little illustration than the legendary concern banker.

The location - implicit with marble bathrooms, 12-foot ceilings and sweeping views of Central Park - went for astir 30 per cent little than its archetypal $US15 cardinal ($22.5 million) listing price.

 Michael Flacks is connected  the verge of becoming a billionaire.

“If beingness gives maine lemons, I marque lemonade.“: Michael Flacks is connected the verge of becoming a billionaire.

And that’s conscionable however Michael Flacks likes it.

The precocious schoolhouse dropout has carved retired a niche for discreetly snapping up bargains of progressively larger assets, spanning clothing, cleaning and overgarment organisation companies worldwide.

A British autochthonal present based successful the US, Flacks is looking to ramp up his investments aft acquiring 4 businesses successful the aforesaid fig of years. Those unsocial are presently worthy much than $US250 million, according to information compiled by Bloomberg.

His Flacks Group is processing its archetypal residential existent property task from scratch successful Florida, 1 of the hottest lodging markets successful the US. It’s connected a tract bought a decennary agone for small much than $US500,000 and adjacent his ain residence successful Miami’s Fisher Island enclave for the ultrawealthy.


“I’ve been nether the radar,” Flacks, who turns 56 this month, said successful a caller interrogation astatine London’s Claridge’s Hotel. “Why did I bargain successful New York? I bought it connected the cheap.”

Flacks, who has a nett worthy of astir $US600 cardinal ($901 million), arsenic per the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, is among those looking to boost allocations beyond nationalist markets to question returns successful an uncertain economical environment. Investors including pension funds, household offices and insurers are apt to crook their absorption to backstage equity and backstage recognition this year, BlackRock said past month.

With nary extracurricular money, the Flacks Group main enforcement serviceman has much dealmaking flexibility than astir buyout companies, allowing him to see perchance lucrative opportunities others situation not interaction owed to concerns linked to the situation oregon governance.

In September, for example, his steadfast bought for an undisclosed sum Kelly-Moore Paints, a US overgarment shaper with historical liabilities for antecedently utilizing asbestos successful its products. Before that, it acquired Corizon, a supplier of health-care services for US prisons fined successful the past for mediocre performance, and Pleuger Industries, a German shaper of submersible pumps for lipid and mining firms.

Flacks precocious    bought a luxurious flat  astatine  New York’s Plaza Hotel astatine  a heavy  discounted price.

Flacks precocious bought a luxurious flat astatine New York’s Plaza Hotel astatine a heavy discounted price. Credit: Michael Nagle

Kelly-Moore Paints is going done a restructuring, partially to woody with its ineligible issues, and Corizon was sold astatine a nett months earlier it filed for bankruptcy, according to a idiosyncratic acquainted with the substance who spoke connected the information of anonymity arsenic the details are private. Pleuger filed a suit past period against its larger US rival and erstwhile owner, Flowserve, claiming it infringed connected intelligence spot rights.

A Flowserve typical didn’t respond to requests for comment.

As he’s taken connected small idiosyncratic indebtedness implicit the years, Flacks said rising involvement rates haven’t curtailed him and his halfway squad of less than two-dozen employees.

“I’m looking astatine opportunities others won’t look at,” Flacks said. “Generally, we are buying a multinational’s plus they don’t want. We don’t consciousness atrocious astir looking astatine thing that volition dice successful 15 oregon 20 years.”

‘If beingness gives maine lemons, I marque lemonade.’

Michael Flacks

A autochthonal of Manchester successful northwest England, Flacks got his commencement selling fur coats and leather jackets successful street-market stalls aft dropping retired of schoolhouse astatine property 16.

He aboriginal expanded his retail operations and parlayed the wealth into existent estate, including successful places similar Germany, aft prices slumped successful the aftermath of the 2008 planetary fiscal crisis. Property investments successful the state inactive marque up much than fractional of the astir two-dozen existent property assets listed connected the company’s website.

Flacks began buying up different businesses astir a decennary ago, with a absorption connected distressed firms saddled with debt. His institution led a consortium of investors successful 2012 that bought Irish women’s covering concatenation A Wear retired of medication and completed a akin woody a fewer years aboriginal for German sporting-goods concern Fan & More. In 2020, it acquired German cleaning-systems steadfast Zippel from a Japanese machines conglomerate and made an unsuccessful bid to instrumentality power of department-store concatenation Hema, a staple successful municipality centers crossed the Netherlands.

“I similar iconic brands,” said Flacks, who inactive speaks with a wide Manchester accent. But “some retailers should beryllium near to die.”


Not each Flacks’s deals person gone to plan. Banks filed to instrumentality power of the 2 homes helium acquired connected Fisher Island betwixt 2005 and 2006, erstwhile their values slumped aft the fiscal crisis. Local filings inactive registry his code astatine 1 of them, portion the different was sold successful 2009 for little than fractional of the $US4 cardinal Flacks paid for it successful 2006.

Stefan Muller, a erstwhile concern banker astatine Moelis’s namesake firm, joined Flacks Group past month, signalling the firm’s dealmaking intentions. Flacks is present targeting businesses with yearly net of $US50 cardinal to $US100 million, much than treble his erstwhile range, and is looking to boost his company’s beingness successful the UK and Japan.

While Flacks said helium won’t put successful cigaret oregon vaping brands, determination are fewer limits connected what types of deals travel next. He said he’s presently looking astatine a large concern that doesn’t conscionable existent environmental, societal and governance standards.

“If beingness gives maine lemons, I marque lemonade,” helium said.


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