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"Anyone can buy a company. You just have to sign a contract and wire the money," he says. But conceiving how those acquired company parts can be integrated into an organically growing entity takes a special creative talent. "Even though I'm not writing a song [in integrating companies], I'm thinking of ideas that are abstract. It's a combination of math and music. I'm visualizing them as clearly as I possibly can in space and time and then actually executing on them."
If that sounds a tad highfalutin, consider this: In September 2011 Jacobs' family investment firm ponied up $62.5m to gain control of Express-1, a Michigan-based freight expediter doing $170m in sales a year. He renamed Express-1 after its XPO stock symbol, moved its headquarters to Connecticut and over four years spent more than $7bn on 17 acquisitions. Today XPO's stock trades at $102, giving it a market cap of $12.3bn, for a compound annual return of 38 percent under Jacobs' watch. That's more than double the S&P's return and better than Amazon's.
Jacobs' own stake is worth $2bn, making up the bulk of his fortune, which includes a 50-acre Greenwich estate, a 17,000-square-foot Palm Beach waterfront mansion just down the road from President Trump's Mar-a-Lago, and a starter modern art collection with works by Picasso, de Kooning, Calder and Lichtenstein.
Truth is, corporate roll-ups have a bad rep. Some operators have overpaid, taken on too much debt, touted synergies that didn't exist or even cooked the books. Yet 14 of 16 analysts covering XPO rate it a buy, persuaded by Jacobs' dealmaking smarts, his execution and his vision of an integrated logistics company that uses technology to capitalize on the growth of e-commerce and the worldwide supply chain. After Jacobs' acquisition run, XPO has strong positions in the U.S. and Europe in freight brokerage, last-mile delivery (getting heavy goods like refrigerators from warehouses to consumers), less-than-truckload shipping and contract logistics (handling all of a company's logistics). Last year it netted $312m ($2.45 per diluted share) on $15.4bn in revenues. Free cash flow increased 77 percent to $374m in 2017, and XPO projects it will top $600m in 2018.
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