Richard Medley is not by nature a patient man, and the dinner in a trendy lower Manhattan restaurant seemed interminable to him. The Swiss banking official to his right ignored Medley through drinks, appetizers, even a long first course. Eventually losing interest in the conversational thread that had kept him busy heretofore, the gentleman turned abruptly to Medley, asking without benefit of an inquiry about names, “And what do you do?” Amused by the question, Richard Medley explained that he was in the business of business intelligence – selling information about the probable actions of governments across the globe as they might impact top management of major corporations. Things like the actions of central banks as currency values shift, or the response of security regulators to mergers and acquisitions, or shifts in trade policies, or tax changes on capital gains. To which came the Swiss banker's dismissive judgment: “What a silly thing to do, a fellow named Richard Medley owns that market!” Medley told the story years later with no small relish at his regular table at the exclusive Four Seasons restaurant, directly below his offices on the 33rd floor of New York's Seagram's Building. His out of town guests decided to put the anecdote in the first paragraph of their Yale SOM case on Medley Global Advisors.
By the summer of 2003, Medley had come a long way. His firm Medley Global Advisors (MGA) now employed about 150 professionals gathering and interpreting information on governments across the globe on behalf of business clients. Fees for inclusion in the flow of information started at $15,000 per month and went up from there. A great many top management teams in Fortune 500 firms relied heavily on MGA in making strategic decisions. Medley was now an affluent New Yorker, who loved the work of analyzing politics and fraternizing with politicians from Beijing to London. But Medley was increasingly impatient and bored with the blocking-and-tackling required to maintain MGA as an organization. He had hired a gifted second-in-command – Graham Duncan, straight out of Yale College – and for the first time found himself imagining the possibility of a Medley Global Advisors without Medley. Could he sell his interest in the firm for a fair price and thereby free himself for something new without destroying his legacy of creating the firm that “owned” the government intelligence market?