Billionaire Ken Fisher apologized Thursday for using sexual metaphors to describe his philosophy on wooing money-management clients during a San Francisco speech that sparked a furor on social media.
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"Some of the words and statements I used during a recent conference to make certain points were clearly wrong, and I shouldn't have made them," Fisher said in a statement to FOX Business. "I realize this kind of language has no place in our company or industry."
The founder of Fisher Investments, which was created in 1979 and manages $112 billion for its clients, had originally told Bloomberg News that he was caught off guard by the reaction to his speech at the Tiburon CEO Summit, noting that he had made similar remarks many times before.
The brouhaha illustrates the quandary facing high-profile executives with a reputation for blunt speech amid the #MeToo era's heightened sensitivity to sexual innuendo. During the past three years, allegations of sexual assault led to the arrest of movie producer Harvey Weinstein, while complaints of harassment prompted PBS to halt its broadcasting of the Charlie Rose show, spurred the ouster of CEO Les Moonves at CBS and led to the resignation of Sen. Al Franken, the Minnesota Democrat. Currently, NBC continues to reel from the fallout of Matt Lauer who has now been accused of rape allegations by a former staffer. Lauer has stated the relationship was consensual.
“I have given a lot of talks, a lot of times, in a lot of places and said stuff like this and never gotten that type of response,” the 68-year-old told Bloomberg after the speech. “Mostly the audience understands what I am saying.”
While using sexual metaphors for deal-making is common, if not always welcome, in private conversations on Wall Street, the difference for Fisher is that he was a headline speaker at a three-day conference of paying guests.
"It was a true debacle," Alex Chalekian, the founder and CEO of advisory firm Lake Avenue Financial, said in a video posted on Twitter. Fisher talked about tripping on hallucinogens, and compared money managers bragging to prospective clients with men showing their genitalia to women they're trying to pick up, he said.
"When I was listening to all of this stuff, I didn't know if this was a joke or what was going on, I was a deer in headlights," he recalled. "My jaw dropped. So we need to change this -- we need to change it now."
Tiburon Strategic Advisors, which organized the event, didn't respond to a request for comment from FOX Business.
It was "one of the most disgusting and disappointing moments in my career," Rachel Robasciotti, the founder of investment manager Robasciotti & Philipson and a member of Fisher's audience, said on Twitter.
As for Fisher, he speculated to Bloomberg that he's an "easy guy to dislike" because of his firm's success and questioned whether future speakers at Tiburon events would be as candid.