Shareholders have voted for “significant opposition” and are likely to oust one-time dot-com star manager Kevin Landis after shares in his Firsthand Technology Value Fund plunged more than 80% over 13 years, Bulldog Investors principal Phillip Goldstein tells eFinancialCareers.
Landis’ go-anywhere technology-sector fund approach is “completely flawed,” says Goldstein, whose company is Firsthand’s largest shareholder. “If we can get rid of him, we’ll run it.”
Landis, who has been a well-known fixture on CNBC flaunting high tech tickers, had a powerful five-year run during the Internet boom, but has since been on a losing streak and Goldstein says he’s made “every attempt to seek resolution,” including filing a fight letter with the SEC and speaking to Landis directly.
“He’s just been intransigent about doing anything to improve the situation,” says Goldstein. “I don’t usually shoot from the hip. I make every attempt to seek resolution.”
Tony Denninger, Vice President at Hewes Communications, this afternoon returned a call seeking comment, and said he would call back with an official statement from Firsthand.
On April 11, Firsthand, which trades on Nasdaq as SVVC, disclosed its top five holdings: Twitter (9.2% of the fund’s gross assets); Facebook (7.7%); SolarCity Corp.; a leading installer of commercial and residential solar photovoltaic systems; Silicon Genesis Corp., a developer of layer transfer technology for the semiconductor and solar industries; and QMAT, a developer of advanced materials technologies for applications in the electronics industry. Shares in Firsthand Technology Value Fund founded by Landis were trading today at $19.28, below their net asset value of $23.26.
Landis has publicly insisted this year that his Facebook investment will still turn a profit. Even though Firsthand was a pre-IPO investor, its cost basis for Facebook was $31.50.
“He doesn’t seem to have any approach,” says Goldstein. “He doesn’t really seem to know anything about the valuations. He seems to be fascinated by technology, but I don’t think he looks at balance sheets.”
Bulldog’s group of private investment funds, together with other accounts managed by Bulldog Investors, own 9.8% of the fund’s outstanding shares.
“We have a 20-year record of making money for investors. Our long-term return is excellent. His is horrible. There is no way to sugar coat the fact that he hasn’t responded, and there is no way to spin the numbers,” says Goldstein.
One shareholder who has been investing with Landis since the late 1990s sent Goldstein a letter saying she “lost a significant portion of her retirement.” Landis was highly regarded as a star manager during the Internet boom and his strategy went unquestioned for years until the tech bubble burst and he continued to pile money into broken promises of ongoing stardom like the Facebook IPO flop.
“It’s what I would call a fad fund, completely different from what I do,” he says. “He was just purely rolling the dice. …You know how they have those warning labels on cigarettes? His could be hazardous to your wealth.”
“I don’t think he learned a lesson from the tech bubble blowout,” says Goldstein.
Goldstein plans to turn around the fund pending the removal of Landis.
“We’re still exploring options. There are other people who are interested in same fund,” he says. “Maybe we’ll bring in some new blood. Maybe we’ll manage it in-house.”