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Gary Bryant: Champion of the Capital Markets


The legendary investment-banking expert talks with the Opportunist’s Managing Editor Leslie Stone about his 50-year career and why investment conferences are so important to small companies today.

Gary Bryant is said to be among the best in the micro-cap, capital markets industry, taking companies public, making deals and getting deals done. A founding member of the National Investment Banker’s Association (NIBA), he currently works as the president and founder of Newport Capital Consultants, Inc., an Orange County, Calif. based consulting firm engaged in consulting services to private and public companies.

“Gary could be traveling the world on a yacht but instead he works out of ‘the Barn’ on his 6-acre Dallas ranch,” says Patrick Howell, one of Bryant’s protégés and the executive director of the San Diego Investment Conference. “He is still running with deals like Petro Resources [now Magnum Hunter Resources, NYSE: MHR], Xtreme Oil and Gas [US: XTOG] or Lucas Energy [AMEX: LEI], just like his days as linebacker with Northeastern Oklahoma A&M football. Whatever Gary touches is more than likely going to succeed.”

This week, Bryant is receiving The West Coast Wall Street Conference’s first Lifetime Legacy Achievement Award for his half-century of work in the capital markets.

Opportunist: Gary, please tell us about your company.

Gary: I founded Newport Capital Consultants in 1991. We have offices in Orange County, Calif. and Dallas. Basically, we take small companies in both the public and private sector and introduce them to capital markets.

Opportunist: What criteria does Newport Capital look for when choosing clients?

Gary: We look at different things. First, we make sure the company’s management is qualified and doesn’t have a history of being involved in a bunch of bad deals. You need talent to run a public company. Harland Stonecipher, founder of Pre-Paid Legal Services, is a good example. It’s not like running a local small business; you are managing people and other people’s money and looking at how they can grow.

Opportunist: What are some of the most notable companies you have helped become successful?

Gary: At Anderson Bryant & Company we made a market in Pre-Paid Legal Services and later consulted to them. We were also the lead underwriter for Mr. Rooter Corp., Omni Films, Starstream Corp., Del Paint Corp. and Assix International Inc. We also did the very first underwriting in Belize for Journey’s End Resorts.

Another popular little stock, during the early years of the space industry, was Dorsett Electronics in Tulsa, Okla. The company had components in all of our space shuttles and did very well. LaBarge Technologies eventually bought them out. We also worked with Sonic Industries, which has become one of the country’s largest drive-in fast food chains.

Chesapeake Energy is probably my most famous client and probably the largest company we ever consulted. They have a great, well-respected management team. Chesapeake is now trading at $32 a share on the NYSE.

After I moved to California, I consulted to about 25 or 30 small corporations for a million dollars or less. One such company was Correctional Systems Inc., which started out as private prisons and opened up the first private jail in Seal Beach. They expanded into Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Baldwin Park and into Arizona and Texas. In a short time they went from zero employees to 1,200 and merged with Cornell Cos. Inc, a leading private provider of corrections. Bill Garrison, a former warden at Leavenworth, was head of Correctional Systems. They took a million dollars and turned it into several million and employed 1,200 people. It’s a very good example of what small companies should do in the United States today.

Opportunist: How did you get involved in the investment business?

Gary: I studied finance and marketing at the University of Oklahoma. During my senior year, I registered as a broker for an issuer and got my license in the fall of 1963. At mid-term, I joined a firm called Midwest Securities.

Opportunist: Tell us about your experience there.

Gary: While working as a broker-dealer at Midwest Securities, I met the head trader, a guy named Andy Anderson. He was a war hero who had been in the Ranger Battalion during World War II. He was a pretty tough yet good guy who had been in the securities business for about 10 years. Andy took me under his wing, and in November of 1965 we had a chance to leave and form our own firm. We built Anderson Bryant & Company into the largest Oklahoma-based brokerage firm. It was very enjoyable. We did offerings. I left the securities business, sold my firm and moved to California in 1991. That’s when I started on the consulting side of the fence, helping companies go public and find exposure for their stock.

Opportunist: What were some of your experiences as a founding member of the National Investment Banker’s Association (NIBA)?

Gary: I was fortunate to be elected to the first board of directors. The organization was known as the Regional Investment Bankers Syndicate (RIBS) back then. I traveled to Chicago several times to work on the organization. There were five or six of us sitting around the table, talking about how to get this going. We selected members and directors and wrote the bylaws. We had a pretty good format where we’d bring companies in to present to the membership. The membership would, in turn, take a piece of it or reject it. That helped the quality of everybody’s projects. NIBA was a necessary thing because it brought broker-dealers and their clients together.

Opportunist: When did you become involved with investment conferences?

Gary: When the brokerage business started shrinking in the late-1990s, it was harder for smaller firms to make markets. We decided to start the Southern California Investment Association. We would bring in 10-15 companies on weekends and do a conference with them. That worked real well, and we had as many as 200 people in attendance. Recently, we formed the Southwest Investment Association. Conferences are necessary and so important for investors, companies and broker-dealers. It takes a lot of liquidity to make these markets and keep these companies going today. Cities like Dallas and Los Angeles don’t have anywhere near the market makers they had 10 years ago. In Denver, for example, there were 35 market makers 10 years ago. Today there are only two. Regulations have gone toward the bigger stuff and the larger companies have taken over what the smaller firms used to do. Things have gone more electronic over the last 10 years. The NYSE doesn’t have anywhere near the amount of people on the floor. Conferences are the tool companies need to get the word out.

Opportunist: Have you written any books or do you have any in the works?

Gary: I have not. Patrick [Howell] and I were thinking about working on a book called Getting Deals Done or something like that because I have gotten most of the deals I’ve started done. [Laughs]

Opportunist: Do you believe the U.S. economy will rebound?

Gary: Yes. I’ve seen these cycles before. I came into the business right after the Kennedy assassination. Things were volatile then but they worked out pretty well. We’re in more of a global situation now. A lot depends on what’s going in Asia and Europe. Once those economies come back, ours will too.

Opportunist: How is life on the ranch?

Gary: My wife, Suzanne, and I have five horses, four Border Collies, four cats and a donkey. The Exxon Mobil Corp. helicopter just flew over, to pick up the chairman. He lives about two miles from the way the crow flies from me. It’s kind of interesting. I have a barn office, a formal office and a work office. Life is good on the ranch.

Leslie Stone is an award-winning writer/editor with more than two decades of experience covering business, finance and lifestyle issues for newspapers, magazines and online publications.