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In search of the world’s best investment advice
NEW RULING ELITE
The ruling elite of the investment world are an eclectic bunch. There’s the grey-bearded sovereign debt raider, Paul Singer, a New Jersey native who brazenly confiscated an Argentinian navy ship in an African port as he took the South American nation to court to demand payment on his bonds. There’s Bill Ackman, a wealthy New York investor who has pursued Herbalife, the 30-year-old nutrition products maker, claiming it’s a pyramid scheme and betting against its shares. As other hedge funds have taken him on, he has created a battleground based on morality, class, ego and profit. There’s David Einhorn, the 45-year-old New Yorker who helped topple shaky financial firms such as Lehman Brothers with undermining slide shows. And Dan Loeb, a Californian known for penning vicious letters to the management of companies – and for the prominent arches on the balcony of his penthouse at that enclave of New York’s new rich, 15 Central Park West.
Then there are the greatest investors of all: Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. The evergreen duo have invested studiously and confidently in the long-term prosperity of America in a way that seems too simple, to the point where young kids, pensioners and citizens of the world flock to hear him address his Berkshire Hathaway shareholders at the company’s annual meeting.
All these successful investors have varied qualities but all are ultimately admired for their investment returns. And what are the qualities that make them great investors? Well, if you ask, they might just tell you.
“The great thing about this business is everyone is trying to help you,” Seth Klarman, founder of the $US15 billion ($16?billion) Boston-based hedge fund, Baupost, told an audience of students in New York last year.
“Warren Buffett tells you how to invest; he does it generously.”
Klarman is considered one of the greats himself, a wonkier, more reclusive version of Warren Buffett. With his words ringing in my head, I set off across the United States to hear from as many of the country’s great investors as my travel budget and relatively privileged access will allow.