Billionaires: Hedge funds meets hip-hop as Ray Dalio mentors Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs

In our fortnightly round-up, the famed investor offers his advice to take the rapper’s ‘great success to another level’ and Vietnam’s richest man bets $2bn to sell cars in the US

Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates LP, speaks during a panel discussion at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. The New Economy Forum, organized by Bloomberg Media Group, a division of Bloomberg LP, aims to bring together leaders from public and private sectors to find solutions to the world's greatest challenges. Photographer: Takaaki Iwabu/Bloomberg
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Ray Dalio

Ray Dalio — founder of the world’s biggest hedge fund firm, Bridgewater Associates — revealed on Twitter last week that his new protege is none other than hip-hop entrepreneur Sean “Diddy” Combs.

Mr Dalio, 70, said in a tweet that Combs “asked me to mentor him to help him take his great success to another level”. He posted a 25-minute video of a recent mentoring session where the two explored techniques including “radical open mindedness”.

In the video, Combs said he was thankful to have met Mr Dalio at the photo shoot for the Forbes 100 Greatest Living Business Minds in 2017, a list on which they were both featured.

He said the mentoring session was a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to ask questions about Mr Dalio's Principles: Life & Work, a 600-page manifesto for success that has sold 2.2 million copies since its publication in September 2017. The tome, an unlikely crossover hit that has been praised by celebrities from Combs to Bill Gates, was recently turned into an illustrated version for children.

In the mentoring session with Combs, Mr Dalio, who has an estimated net worth of $18.7 billion (Dh68.7bn) according to Forbes, shared his advice on achieving goals. He told Combs to get to the root cause of problems, design and implement an attack plan for each one and "push through to result".

Combs, 50, has an estimated net worth of $740 million, placing him third on the Forbes list of Richest Rappers 2019 after Jay-Z and Dr Dre.

Mr Dalio’s flagship $40bn fund Pure Alpha II has struggled in recent years, following peak returns of 45 per cent in 2010 and 25 per cent in 2011. It has return an annualised 3.8 per cent since the start of 2012, even with a 15 per cent gain last year.

However, the fund still has a waiting list of about $5bn. Investors credit Mr Dalio’s reputation, along with savvy marketing and first-rate customer service.

Bridgewater’s company-wide assets now stand at about $160bn, including hedge funds and lower-fee products, a figure that’s stayed roughly constant for most of the decade.

“I learnt along the way certain things that helped me be successful. So whatever success I’ve had is not because of me. It’s because of principles that I’ve learnt along the way,” Mr Dalio said during the session with Combs. “I want to pass on what’s been good for me. When I do that, I can have peace.”

Pham Nhat Vuong, chairman of Vingroup JSC, listens during an interview in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. Vuong, the billionaire behind six-month-old Vietnamese auto startup VinFast, plans a feat even Toyota Motor Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. couldn't pull off during their early days: sell a car in the U.S. Photographer: Yen Duong/Bloomberg

Pham Nhat Vuong

The billionaire behind six-month-old Vietnamese auto start-up VinFast plans a feat even Toyota and Hyundai couldn’t pull off during their early days: sell cars in the US.

Pham Nhat Vuong, the South-East Asian country’s richest man and now in charge of the new car maker, is so intent on exporting electric vehicles to the lucrative American market in 2021 that he’s ploughing as much as $2bn of his own fortune to reach that goal. His cash would account for half the capital investment of VinFast, which began delivering cars to Vietnamese consumers with BMW-licenced engines earlier this year and aims to expand into electric vehicles.

“Our ultimate goal is to create an international brand,” the 51-year-old tycoon said at the Hanoi headquarters of the car company’s parent Vingroup, which Mr Vuong founded and holds the title of chairman. “It will be a very difficult road and we will have to put in a lot of effort. But there’s only one road ahead.”

The home-grown cars made under Mr Vuong’s sprawling real estate-to-hospitals conglomerate faces an uphill battle to succeed overseas: carmakers such as India’s Tata Motors and Malaysia’s Proton Holdings struggled to win over consumers away from their home turf. Even in Vietnam, VinFast has formidable competition from established foreign players such as Toyota, Ford and Hyundai.

The tycoon, whose net worth is $9.1bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, is undaunted. Vingroup sold some shares last year and Mr Vuong plans to sell as much as 10 per cent of his own shares to raise funds for the ambitious project. He owns 49 per cent of VinFast, while the parent, Vingroup, holds 51 per cent.

The car maker won’t be profitable for as many as five years, said Mr Vuong. Rhe local market is “too small” and overseas sales are key to becoming profitable, he added. Mr Vuong directly owns 26 per cent of Vingroup, according to Bloomberg data. Vietnam Investment Group, in which Vuong has about a 92 per cent stake, holds 31.6 per cent of Vingroup.

VinFast’s first EV won’t roll off its assembly line until late next year, but Mr Vuong said he plans to export those vehicles to the US, Europe and Russia in 2021.

LONDON, ENGLAND  - MAY 09:  Simon Reuben and David Reuben attend a private view of "Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition" at The Design Museum on May 9, 2019 in London, England.  (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

David and Simon Reuben

British property investors David and Simon Reuben have helped finance Dreamscape’s acquisition of the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino from Caesars Entertainment.

“We’re believers in Las Vegas and its future,” the brothers said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg earlier this month.

Dreamscape, owned by New York-based real estate investor Eric Birnbaum, completed the $516.3m transaction and plans to renovate the 2,522-room hotel and casino.

Caesars will continue to operate the property for at least two years, paying annualised rent of $45m, according to the terms of the deal.

The Reubens — who have a combined net worth of $12bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index — have been lenders to iconic properties including New York’s Plaza Hotel and the Grosvenor House hotel in London.

epa08043871 (FILE) - Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis attends a press conference during the Visegrad Group (V4) Friends of Cohesion summit in Prague, Czech Republic, 05 November 2019 (reissued 04 December 2019). Reports on 04 December 2019 state Pavel Zeman, high level Czech prosecutor, has ordered the reopening of the probe into fraud allegations against Babis. The case that involves subsidies of European Union was dropped by the Prague state attorney in September 2019, and further investigations and new ruling ordered.  EPA/MILAN KAMMERMAYER

Andrej Babis

Tens of thousands of Czechs marched in renewed protests last week against the country’s billionaire prime minister, Andrej Babis, who’s embroiled in an investigation into alleged fraud.

The rally is part of a wave of the largest anti-government demonstrations since the fall of communism. They were triggered by charges by police that Mr Babis illegally obtained European Union funds for one of his businesses more than a decade ago. He rejects the allegations as an attempt from his rivals to push him from power and vowed not to step down.

Earlier this month, the top prosecutor affirmed a decision to drop fraud charges against members of Mr Babis’s family, but renewed the probe into Mr Babis himself, rekindling the prospect that the chemical, agriculture and media tycoon may face a court trial.

Mr Babis, one of the richest Czechs with a net worth estimated at $2.2bn, is a divisive figure in the nation of 10.7 million. While the fraud and conflict-of-interest allegations sparked the strongest display of public discontent since the Velvet Revolution in 1989, he remains the nation’s most popular leader.

Two opinion polls showed support for Mr Babis’s ANO party at around 30 per cent, and another put it at 35 per cent, more than twice as high as its nearest competitor.

He has focused his policies on increasing pensions and state-workers’ salaries as well as investing more in building highways.

“A normal person would have probably left by now,” Mr Babis said in his weekly Facebook address to his supporters. “But not me. As it’s generally known, I’m a dogged beast.”

FILE PHOTO - SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks at the E3 gaming convention in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 13, 2019.  REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Picture

Elon Musk

Elon Musk beat a defamation claim from a British cave expert who sued the Tesla chief executive over a tweet in which Mr Musk labelled Vernon Unsworth a “paedo guy”.

A federal jury in Los Angeles on December 6 took about an hour to return a verdict that said Mr Musk’s insult fell short of defamation.

“My faith in humanity has been restored,” Mr Musk said after the verdict.

Mr Unsworth had sought $190m in damages for the harm he claimed to have suffered from the tweet, and to punish Mr Musk. Mr Musk said he fired off the tweet in anger after Mr Unsworth insulted him and his team in a television interview.

“I respect the jury’s decision,” Mr Unsworth said after the verdict. “I’ll take it on the chin and move on.”

His lawyers were less gracious, repeatedly referring to Mr Musk as a “billionaire bully”.