Klarman Tops Griffin as Investors Hunt for ‘Margin of Safety’

Klarman Tops Griffin as Investors Hunt for ‘Margin of Safety’
Klarman Tops Griffin as Investors Hunt for ‘Margin of Safety’
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Seth Klarman is rarely a man in the spotlight. In addition, he is one of the best value investors ever. Therefore, it is always interesting when there are articles about Klarman in the press. Recently Bloomberg had an interesting article about Klarman’s investment style, and how he managed his hedge fund through the financial crisis.

For those unfarmiliar with Seth Klarman here is a short bio:

Seth Klarman is a value investor and Portfolio Manager of the investment partnership The Baupost Group. Founded in 1983, The Baupost Group now manages $7 billion, and has averaged returns of nearly 20% annually since their inception. Seth Klarman is the author of the book Margin of Safety,which sells for over $1000. Mr. Klarman attended Cornell University where he received a degree in economics, and later attended Harvard University where he earned an M.B.A.

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Seth Klarman almost doubled his hedge fund’s assets to $22 billion in the past two years as the industry shrank by sticking with the off-the-beaten-path investments he’s pursued since starting out in 1983.

Unlike John Paulson, who made $15 billion by betting against home mortgages, Klarman didn’t see one big trade that would profit as markets began to collapse. The founder of Baupost Group LLC focused on corporate bonds he calculated would yield solid returns even if the economy got worse.

“We didn’t have the degree of conviction Paulson had,” said Klarman, whose views are so closely watched by investors that his out-of-print book, “The Margin of Safety,” is offered on Amazon.com for more than $1,700. “We don’t deal in absolutes. We deal in probabilities,” he said in an interview at his Boston office.

While Klarman didn’t post the gains that made Paulson famous, he was able to raise almost $4 billion in 2008 when firms including D.B. Zwirn & Co. and Peloton Partners LLP liquidated funds. Baupost was the ninth-largest hedge-fund firm as of Jan. 1, according to AR magazine, Pensions & Investments magazine and data compiled by Bloomberg. He oversees more money than better-known managers such as Ken Griffin and Steven Cohen.

A value investor who looks for securities he considers underpriced, Klarman, 53, said he’s best at “complicated” situations where fewer investors compete for assets. Over the years, Baupost has invested in Parisian office buildings, Russian oil companies and real estate that the U.S. government disposed of following the savings and loan crisis of the early 1990s, said Thomas Russo, a partner in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based investment firm of Gardner Russo and Gardner.

‘Complex Assets’

“He specializes in illiquid, complex assets,” said Russo, who has known Klarman since 1984.

Baupost gained an average of 17 percent annually in the 10 years ended in December, a period in which the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 1 percent a year. The hedge fund has returned 19 percent a year since it was started, even as it held more than 40 percent of its assets in cash at times.

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