What You Need to Know
- Byron Trott's Rolodex has included Warren Buffett, the Waltons, Kochs, Wrigleys and Pritzkers.
- Trott co-founded BDT Capital Partners with William Bush, previously a lawyer at Fulbright & Jaworski LLP.
Byron Trott, consigliere to some of the world’s wealthiest families, doesn’t like being called the billionaires’ banker. How does billionaire banker sound?
The 62-year-old founder of BDT Capital Partners has quietly amassed a $3.6 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, making the former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive as wealthy as some of his better-known clients.
Born in a small town in Missouri, the son of a telephone-line repairman and dress-shop owner, Trott laid the foundations by initially advising some of the world’s most successful investors, especially Warren Buffett, during an almost three-decade run at Goldman Sachs.
Since leaving in 2009, he started his own Chicago-based advisory and private equity firm, where assets have rapidly swelled to $28 billion.
One of his firm’s first investments, Weber Inc., went public this week. While BDT is the grill-maker’s majority owner, Trott and his family personally own a 5% stake worth $240 million, according to a regulatory filing.
Weber was a typical BDT investment: family-owned and often founder-led. Other investments include Whataburger Restaurants, Cox Automotive, Casa Dragones Tequila and German car parts manufacturer Schaeffler AG.
BDT’s model — pitching advice and investing its own capital — is in many ways a throwback to old-world merchant banks. It’s also one that can be phenomenally lucrative for the founders.
“I think of BDT’s purpose being to serve and add value to their clients, and their clients are largely family-run businesses,” said Tom Pritzker, a Trott client for decades and chief executive officer of the Pritzker Organization. “If they do that well, if they add value to those family-run businesses, the consequence will be profit.”
Trott and BDT Capital declined to comment.
Trott’s life runs through the Midwest. He joined Goldman Sachs after graduating from the University of Chicago, where he played varsity baseball as an undergraduate before securing his MBA from the Booth School of Business.
He started as a stockbroker and then worked as a wealth manager in St. Louis, where he caught the eye of Hank Paulson, then manager of the bank’s Midwest operations. Paulson, who would become the firm’s CEO and later U.S. Treasury secretary, tapped him to join the investment-banking group.
Even after the move, Trott kept his focus on rich families, with Midwestern fortunes a specialty.
“I loved bringing the investing and investment banking disciplines together and soon realized the value added that I could provide, especially to entrepreneurs and the leaders of family-owned companies,” Trott said in a 2011 biographical sketch for his acceptance into the Horatio Alger Association. “It didn’t take long to realize that I had found my passion.”
Trott made a name for himself orchestrating a series of deals for Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., prompting the Omaha billionaire to praise him in a letter to investors.