Private equity firm CEO predicts correction, bear market possible next year

McWhorter prioritizes profitability in 2019

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For 38-year-old Cartersville resident Josh McWhorter, it's an honor to be named a member of The Atlanta Business Chronicle's 40 Under Forty 2018 class — even if he doesn't quite consider himself all that worthy of the distinction.

"I don't know if I'm quite deserving of the award or the honor, but I'm very humbled, at the least," said the founder and president of McWhorter Capital Partners (MCP.) "You look back at some of the past recipients, and just the fact that it is the Atlanta Business Chronicle, it's not something that you pay for or anything like that, it's an award that people have to nominate for you and past alumni actually do the selection process."

About 570 or so people were nominated for the honor, which was ultimately whittled down to 80 candidates. Joining McWhorter on the final 40 Under Forty list includes the likes of Georgia Department of Public Health program director Tamira Moon, CallRail Inc. CEO Andy Powell and The Home Depot Vice President of Home Services Stacey Tank. 

"I probably get more credit than we deserve looking at the company's accomplishments and not enough of the blame when things go wrong," McWhorter said. "But I think it was just the community involvement, the fact that we had been profitable and growing — I think we added 24 employees last year."

But the company's workforce isn't the only thing that's growing. Right now, McWhorter said his company is right around $100 million in assets and he expects MCP to generate around $36 million in revenue next year.

"We've actually doubled in size every year, going back to Jan. 1, 2016," he said. "We've been incredibly blessed and we have a lot of people who work extremely hard to make that happen. We're looking forward to seeing what the future holds." 

Two areas where MCP certainly branched out in 2018, he said, were residential investments and outdoor advertising. 

On the residential side, construction is already underway on the Old Mill Townhomes in Calhoun and the Etowah Bend subdivision in Euharlee, with a 72-acre development in Taylorsville also in the works.

"We had continued to buy up raw land over the last couple of years to start putting that into action, so I would like to think we're at the very beginning of the game, the first, second or third inning," McWhorter said. "We're just about ready to put Etowah Bend out there, Old Mill has their first 14 townhome units that are about to come online … we're just getting going as we're finding our stride."

Then there's MCP's $150 million capital raising campaign to increase the footprint of its Horton Outdoor Advertising subsidiary. 

"We have a couple of different investors and they're looking at going well beyond the $150 million that we had initially planned to do," he said. "Time will tell exactly how that will come out, but we've been in continued discussion in terms of the investors that will be coming on and the investments that we're looking at. It looks like it could possibly reach outside of our current geographic area that we're in."

Regarding his business plans for next year, McWhorter said the keyword is "profitability."

"It's already been set in my heart that it's time to really start focusing on profitability," he said. "How much are we overlapping in certain expenses between businesses that maybe we could just use one end and share expenses? That's going to be the biggest initiative for 2019." 

Beyond that, McWhorter said his goals are to simply "get better" in the businesses he's already in.

"We've messed around and tinkered in a lot of different businesses and I think at this point, we have our development and construction company, we have our outdoor company, we have our real estate investment company, and our realty team actually serves all three businesses," he said. "I think we know where we are, who we are and what we're going to do, so can we get better in those three companies and continue to put our realtors in positions to be successful?"

And as for the overall 2019 stock market picture, McWhorter said he's predicting a slowdown — with a bear market potentially on the horizon.

"One of the things I think is bound to happen is we're due — overdue — for a correction. Anytime a correction hits, it's generally a 10 percent or more decline, and they generally refer to a 20 percent or more decline as a bear market," he said. 

"Asset prices have increased tremendously, interest rates are still low, so as they continue to rise, I think the Federal Reserve is going to start pushing those and there's going to be that constant political battle over what to do there. At the end of the day, the market is just high, it's been a long time since we've seen a true correction and a bear market … so don't be surprised if you wake up one morning and it's been pulled back."