76-year-old Bill Foley wins more deals than he loses, and most of the time he turns his acquisitions into gold.
Real estate billionaire Bill Foley has a strategy of acquiring businesses. He begins by “giving a bear hug” to the target, pouring love and supporting the founder or CEO’s ego. Then in the course of the transaction – and after strict due diligence – he goes into the true value of the company, avoids overpayments and brings the business personalities down to earth.
“It’s an art to see,” says an insider.
The 76-year-old Foley wins more deals than he loses, and most of the time he turns his acquisitions into gold.
Businesses from real estate to wine, resorts, fast food, steakhouses, data, insurance, and sports have been the target of this avid dealmaker for the past 40 years. It made him one of the richest men in the residential real estate industry.
In the recent Forbes billionaires list, Foley’s net worth was valued at $ 1.9 billion. For comparison, Zillow founder Rich Barton’s net worth is estimated at $ 2.2 billion.
Foley, the real estate billionaire most real estate agents have never heard of, is both a business acquirer and a business founder. And he’s good at both.
If you’re in the real estate industry, your clients have bought a policy from his title company, Fidelity National Title. You used his MLS services or data from Black Knight, or bought leads from Commissions, Inc.
You’ve likely eaten one of his hamburgers in a number of food franchises like Carl’s Jr. You may have seen his hockey team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, the surprisingly successful NHL expansion team that Foley paid $ 500 million to build. Or maybe you’ve had one of his red wines – he’s one of the largest vineyard owners in the United States.
Or, if you’ve had a particularly good pandemic, you may have bought a lot from his Rock Creek Cattle Company, a remote 28,000-acre ranch in Montana for rich elk, bear, wolf, deer, and antelope.
Foley has successfully completed hundreds of acquisitions, building empires in the process.
And it all started with property insurance – most of his ventures are offshoots of this once drowsy industry.
In 1984, then attorney Foley bought a small property insurance company in Phoenix, Arizona. Today, after 95 acquisitions, Fidelity National Title Insurance Company is the country’s largest title insurer with a 30 percent market share.
Most consumers don’t understand how property insurance works in the first place, but property insurance is part of any property sale as lenders must ensure that a property is free of mortgages or other encumbrances.
A number of startups are trying to disrupt title business, the backlog of the industry. However, most end up working with companies like Fidelity. They have mastered understanding and manipulating a confusing set of state laws that regulate tariffs and practices. Plus, the average agent has a relationship with a title company that controls the fate of who gets the deal.
When Foley got into the title industry, he saw a high margin business that was bloated at the top.
The company’s largest acquisition was Chicago Title, which Foley bought in 1999 for $ 1.2 billion. The old-school title company had 500 employees in its Chicago offices. At the time, Fidelity only had 120. Most of those Chicago jobs were wiped out.
Foley showed his ability to invest early on and began trading stocks as a student at West Point. Today, Wall Street investors like to invest in Foley’s companies. His most recent conquests are SPACs, the trending blank check companies that offer another way to get companies public. However, his strategy is not to use the investment vehicle to support Moonshot ideas in technology, but rather to focus on proven industries like insurance that he thinks it is undervalued.
Like a handful of talented leaders, Foley sees around the corner and where things are going.
While not intuitive, he realized that Las Vegas was a perfect city for hockey. This explains his success in selling out season tickets before there was even a team or a stadium.
His success in the wine industry was the result of rolling up the fragmented local vineyards and creating a wine giant along the way.
The title industry was a stuffy old business ripe for the harvest. The cash flow in this business is insane and gives it the financial foundation to get into so many other industries.
Like Warren Buffet, he may be a buttoned-up guy, but Bill Foley is mad as a fox.
Email Brad Inman