Ron Baron, founder and CEO of Baron Capital Management, held his annual investor summit in New York City on Friday. (Photo: Chip East, Bloomberg News)
Investment conferences are frequently a dull affair. Not so at Baron Capital Group’s annual gathering in New York City.
This year’s event, held at the luxurious Metropolitan Opera House on Friday, featured a series of A-list celebrity appearances, including performances by cast members from Broadway’s Hamilton, actor Hugh Jackman, and comedian Louis C.K.
The conference, of course, also included presentations on Baron’s investing approach and yearly returns. The morning agenda was filled with speeches by CEOs of four businesses backed by the firm: Bio-Techne Corporation, a biotechnology holding company; Douglas Emmett, which buys commercial real estate in California and Hawaii; Bright Horizons Family Solutions, a childcare provider; and IDEXX Laboratories, a manufacturer of veterinary healthcare products.
Baron Capital, founded by Ron Baron in 1982, is known for its long-term approach to stock-picking. The strategy has paid off well. The firm now holds $22 billion in assets under management, and Baron himself is worth an even $2 billion, according to FORBES’ real-time rankings of the world’s richest people. A New Jersey native, he initially went to law school, but dropped out a semester shy of graduating and switched to a career on Wall Street.
In the afternoon, Baron’s portfolio managers discussed their respective strategies on a panel moderated by Amy Chasen, the firm’s director of research. Noting the lack of diversity on stage—all nine of the portfolio managers were white men, save for Chasen and Linda Martinson, Baron’s president and COO, who were seated on opposite ends of the stage—Ron Baron attempted to play off the awkward imbalance. “We get these complaints all the time about not having enough women out here, so we sandwiched it,” he said.
Later on Friday, in Baron’s address to the 5,000-person audience, he spoke about the day’s theme, “exceptional takes time,” highlighting America’s history of innovation and subsequent prosperity. He also implicitly challenged the messaging of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, commenting, “America is great. We can’t understand how somebody would say something different.” He then went on to discuss the importance of celebrating immigrants, referencing the high proportion of his employees who are either first or second generation citizens.
Though he stopped short of making an explicit political endorsement, Baron urged his investors to take action on Election Day. “I would like to leave you with one message,” he said at the conclusion of his talk. “Please vote.”