Pacific Gemini Partners LLC
With the Korean stock market diving 25 percent last year, investors had good reason to worry. But anyone who put their cash with Stewart M. Kim’s Pacific Gemini Partners LLC took home a tidy 5 percent return.
That was enough to earn Pacific Gemini the No. 1 ranking among 77 firms specializing in the Korean market, according to the January issue of Micropal Emerging Markets Monitor, an industry journal.
And while 5 percent may not seem like much in comparison to Wall Street’s double-digit returns, Kim believes there is great potential in Korea in the years to come.
“Despite the poor performance of the Korean market, there are inefficiencies in pricing that we can identify and profit from as we use the most sophisticated investment and analytical tools from Wall Street combined with our local presence on the Korean market,” said Kim.
It is little surprise that Pacific Gemini has done so well so quickly under Kim’s leadership, said Michael Hooks, managing director of the mergers and acquisitions department at the securities firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette.
“I’ve never seen someone move with such energy and have such an understanding of what’s going on in Korea,” Hooks said. “Stewart’s got all his pieces in place.”
“I think this is just the beginning of what Stewart Kim is going to achieve,” he added.
Pacific Gemini, which manages a $90 million portfolio and has eight employees, specializes in global asset management and leveraged acquisitions of small and middle market companies.
It focuses on Asian Pacific countries, especially Korea, from which Kim’s parents migrated in the early 1960s.
“We have an advantage over many larger firms like Templeton and Barings of being an insider in Asia, based on our relationship with Ssangyong,” Kim said, referring to Pacific Gemini’s Korea-based 50 percent owner, Ssangyong Investment Securities Co., Ltd. That firm and Kim’s White Tiger Capital , Inc. merged in 1995 to form the current company.
Kim earned an MBA at the Wharton School in 1989, then spent six years in the mergers and acquisitions department at Merrill Lynch & Co. in New York. Meanwhile, his father in Los Angeles was active in trade with Korea, and Kim began to ponder business on the West Coast.
“I noticed the opportunity to participate in the expanding capital flows between Asia and the U.S.,” said Kim, who left New York in 1995 to found White Tiger, which he formed for the purpose of merging with Ssangyong to form Pacific Gemini. “California was a superior place to raise and manage capital to be invested there.”
Growing up in a Korean-American family, Kim, who is married with no children, said he is all too aware of the “gaps that exist between the Korean and U.S. communities,” and is thus active in a number of social organizations. He is director of The Korea Society and a western region board member of the Korean-American Scholarship Foundation.