Oaktree Capital Management is an American global asset management firm specializing in alternative investment strategies. It is the largest distressed investor in the world, and one of the largest credit investors in the world. Oaktree emphasizes an opportunistic, value-oriented, and risk-controlled approach to investments in distressed debt, corporate debt (including high yield debt and senior loans), control investing (including private equity and special situations), convertible securities, real estate and listed equities.
As of December 31, 2016, the company managed $101 billion for its clientele which includes 75 of the 100 largest U.S. pension plans, as well as public funds, foundations, corporate and insurance companies, endowments, and sovereign wealth funds. The company’s co-chairman, Howard Marks, has been described as “one of the savviest investors in the world,” and is known in the investment community for letters to investors called the "Oaktree memos”.
The firm was co-founded in 1995 by a group who had formerly worked together at the TCW Group starting in the 1980s. Oaktree quickly established a reputation in the high-yield and distressed-debt markets. On April 12, 2012, Oaktree Capital Group LLC became listed on the NYSE: OAK. As of December 31, 2016 it has over 900 employees and 18 offices in Los Angeles, where it is headquartered, London, New York City, Hong Kong, Stamford (Connecticut), Tokyo, Luxembourg, Paris, Frankfurt, Singapore, Seoul, Beijing, Amsterdam, Dubai, Houston, Shanghai, and Sydney.
With headquarters in Los Angeles, the firm has over 900 employees and offices in 18 cities worldwide (Los Angeles; London; New York City; Hong Kong; Stamford, Connecticut; Tokyo; Luxembourg; Paris; Frankfurt; Singapore; Seoul; Beijing; Amsterdam; Dubai; Houston; Shanghai; and Sydney).
Oaktree has a value-oriented investment philosophy, emphasizing risk-control, consistency and specialization, with a focus on opportunities that offer a margin of safety. On November 12, 2011, the Financial Times said of Oaktree’s approach: “the heart of risk management Oaktree-style, with its emphasis on living to fight another day, is simple. Oaktree eschews overly complicated hedging strategies.” The firm specializes in off-the-beaten-path and contrarian investments, and favors companies with tangible assets. The firm's motto is “if we avoid the losers, the winners will take care of themselves.”
Oaktree invests across the capital structure, with an emphasis on senior debt in companies and markets where it has what it calls a “knowledge advantage.” Distressed or otherwise ailing companies, according to Oaktree, provide such opportunities.
Since its 1995 formation, Oaktree has become the largest distressed-debt investor in the world. In 2008, it raised $10.9 billion for what was the largest-ever distressed debt fund, its Opportunities Fund VIIb. As reported in The Washington Post on June 26, 2011, Oaktree’s 17 distressed-debt funds (which do not use leverage) have averaged annual gains of 19% after fees for the past 22 years.
In addition to credit investments in distressed debt and high-yield bonds, Oaktree also invests in areas such as private equity, real estate and listed equities. In recent years, the company has expanded its real estate activities.
Oaktree’s clientele includes 75 of the 100 largest U.S. pension plans, 38 states in the United States, over 400 corporations and/or their pension funds, over 350 university, charitable and other endowments and foundations, 16 sovereign wealth funds and over 350 other non-U.S. institutional investors. According to the Wall Street Journal, Oaktree has “long been considered a stable repository for pension-fund and endowment money.”
The company’s distressed-debt funds are often over-subscribed, and in 2010 Oaktree turned down potential investors due to self-imposed limits on fund size. By law, clients are required to be so-called accredited investors, however, sub-advisory relationships with mutual funds such as The Vanguard Group and Russell Investment Group provide smaller investors access to Oaktree’s portfolio managers.
Oaktree was founded in 1995 by a group of principals who first joined together at the TCW Group in the mid-1980s to manage high yield bonds, convertible securities, distressed debt, real estate, and principal investments. Within three months of its founding in 1995, “more than 30 TCW clients transferred $1.5 billion in assets to Oaktree.”
Oaktree has formed various sub-advisory relationships since 1995. In 1996, Oaktree was selected as the sub-advisor for the Vanguard Convertible Securities Fund.
Since 1995, Oaktree has created what it refers to as “step-out” strategies, usually coincident with the opening of new offices around the world. Its growth in strategies has largely focused on expanding into European and Asian markets. Between 1997 and 1999, Oaktree created 3 new strategies: Emerging Markets Absolute Return in 1997, European High Yield Bonds in 1999, and Power Opportunities in 1999. Oaktree was one of the first U.S.-headquartered alternative asset managers with dedicated European investment teams focused on credit.
In 2001 Oaktree continued to introduce new "step-out" strategies, starting with Mezzanine Finance. Asia Principal Opportunities (2006) and Asia Special Situations (2007) followed, along with European Principal Investments (2006), U.S. Senior Loans and Value Opportunities (2007), European Senior Loans (2009), Global High Yield Bonds (2010), and Emerging Markets Equities (2011).
In 2005 the Securities And Exchange Commission ordered Oaktree to pay a fine, interest, and disgorge profits after the SEC ruled they had "sold securities short" before the five legal business days after a public offering pricing had gone public. Oaktree was required to put in place policies and procedures to prevent violations in the future.
In 2008, the firm raised $11 billion for their distressed debt fund. In 2009, Oaktree was selected by the U.S. Treasury, along with eight other managers (BlackRock, Invesco, AllianceBernstein and others) to participate in the government’s Public-Private Investment Program (PPIP). At the time of Oaktree’s inclusion in the PPIP program, The New York Times reported: “Howard S. Marks is the sort of financier who Washington hopes will help fix the nation’s tumbledown banks.” Partnering with Oaktree in PPIP are the Inupiat Eskimos of Alaska’s North Slope, whose Arctic Slope Regional Corporation invested some $10 million alongside Oaktree’s PPIP fund. As of December 31, 2016, the Oaktree PPIP Fund, L.P. had a gross return of 28%.
In recent years, the company has formed several strategic relationships. In 2009, Oaktree acquired a 22% stake in DoubleLine Capital, a Los Angeles-based investment firm specializing in mortgage-backed fixed income portfolios. In 2011 Oaktree partnered with Sabal Financial Group, a company focusing on the acquisition and valuation of portfolios of real estate loans. Oaktree had been an investor in Sabal’s portfolios since 2009 prior to acquiring a non-controlling equity stake in the company.
Its relationship with Vanguard was expanded in 2011, when Oaktree was selected as one of four firms to manage Vanguard’s Emerging Markets Select Stock Fund. In 2010, Oaktree was named one of three advisors to the Russell Global Opportunistic Credit Fund and was selected as a manager for the Credit Suisse (Lux) I Fund in 2011.
Seeking investment opportunities created by the European sovereign-debt crisis, Oaktree started its European Principal Fund III in November 2011 with committed capital of some €3 billion.
According to the company’s published financial results, during the year ended December 31, 2016, Oaktree raised $11 billion for Oaktree Opportunities Funds X and Xb (“Opps X and Xb”). Like its other Opportunities funds, Fund X and Xb will focus on “market pricing inefficiencies resulting from company reorganizations and restructurings, and the senior and secured debt of operationally sound, overleveraged companies in the United States and Western Europe.” New strategies, such as Global High Yield Bonds, Strategic Credit, European Private Debt, Emerging Markets Total Return, Emerging Markets Opportunities, Real Estate Debt, Value Equities, and Real Estate Value-Add were also added to the platform.
On April 12, 2012, Oaktree became a publicly traded partnership with shares listed on the NYSE. The company was previously listed on GSTrUE, a private over-the-counter exchange run by Goldman Sachs which officially ceased operations in 2012 after Oaktree, along with Apollo Global Management (in 2011), de-listed and moved to the NYSE.
Oaktree’s current investment activities are divided across six main asset classes: distressed debt, corporate debt (including high yield debt and senior loans), control investing, convertible securities, real estate and listed equities. Fund structures within each asset class vary, and are organized into closed-end, open-end, or so-called “evergreen” fund types.
Oaktree’s fund offerings are organized into three broad categories based on liquidity and lock-up period:
The following tables list the company’s strategies and funds since inception (including TCW funds directed by Oaktree managers before they left TCW to found Oaktree in 1995):
Current as of December 31, 2015: (Capitalcapital.com/about/ source)