Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of facts within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity.
As the year slowly makes its way towards a conclusion, it is usually beneficial to seek knowledge from those who have previously demonstrated their ability for accomplishment. A record over a long period of time is preferred in any field, but especially in the ultra competitive realm of business and investing. The grand pooh bah of the investment universe, as we all know, is Warren Buffett. What many people don't realize is there are plenty other leaders who have done an exceptionally good job of creating value for their shareholders. The New York Times recently featured Barry Diller, the Chairman of the Board of IAC Interactive, as one example. As many press accounts have documented, another leader of tremendous business acumen is John Malone. A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to travel to New York to attend the annual investment day to hear from the various entities which make up the Malone empire.
The journey to New York is typically a schlep, and the usual assortment of overpriced hotel rooms and courteous cab drivers makes the experience a bit annoying at times, but the day of learning is well worth the minor inconvenience. So what did we gleam from this years trek? First, common characteristics are high quality, efficient, and unique businesses led by experienced professionals. Second, positioning for the future is always one of the prime considerations. Third, creating value through corporate transactions is given a high priority, as has been the case in Malone's long history. Fourth, ways to differentiate and highlight the worth of each entity are explored and executed in various ways. Fifth, there is a core competency to the entire enterprise so you will not see pieces which do not fit. Mr. Malone has plenty of critics and much of their objections revolve around corporate governance and executive compensation. Within the empire, some entities have posted strong gains this year, others not so much. The event was first class in every way, highly entertaining, and well attended. On the way out, I heard one attendee say to another, 'Everyone talks about the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, but this is much more worthwhile.' Exactly.
(here is the full interview of Mr. Malone
with CNBC's David Faber at the event.)
In trying to build on the trip to New York, this week I started reading Ben Bernanke's best seller, Courage to Act. Highly recommend it for those of you interested in seeing what big Ben was addressing when going through the financial crisis. In retrospect, one point becomes crystal clear is Bernanke navigated the crisis in an effective way. In fact, for those who remain critical of the actions of the Federal Reserve Board, you have to wonder what could have been done differently? Are there still troubling issues in the economy which are problematic? Of course, but in a 15 trillion dollar economy, nothing is ever going to be perfect. With respect to his decision making, Bernanke knew the historical patterns of financial crises and made sure not to make the same mistakes other central bankers had in the past. Liquidity concerns and the interconnected nature of the financial system were of central importance. Mr. Bernanke showed a great deal of creativity and ingenuity in coming up with solutions to very difficult problems. He dealt with the politics of the situation as best as anyone could at a time of enormous stress for the country. History will probably hold Mr. Bernanke in high regard for his efforts, and the country should as well.
In a few weeks, a movie about the financial crisis will come out called the Big Short. It is based on a best selling book by Michael Lewis. It starts Brad Pitt and Steve Correll, and it should be entertaining. Usually there is a sensational aspect to these efforts, and it is not hard to imagine this will be no exception. Still, movies about finance are few and far between, so it gives us number crunchers a chance to get out.
In looking at the markets over the last week, volumes were light, but I would note on Friday the Asian markets fell quite substantially because of a Chinese government investigation into three brokerage houses. I was looking at recent IPO's over the last few years and many remain very close to their yearly lows- Wingstop, Shake Shack, GoPro, Twitter, and Fitbit come to mind. Might be worth some time to investigate. Oil and commodities remain soft as investors anticipate the Federal Reserve slightly raising interest rates in a few weeks. It is not hard to imagine we will see more of the same over the next few weeks, but you never know. Markets dictate the quest for knowledge and wisdom is a non stop process, and as you can see, we certainly oblige. Thanks for reading the blog this week. If you have any comments or thoughts about it, please email me at
Y H & C Investments, Yale Bock, and the family of Yale Bock own positions in securities mentioned in the blog post. Investing in stocks can lead to the complete loss of your capital. As always, on any company mentioned here, past performance is not a guarantee of future returns. Investing involves risk of losses on invested capital. One should research any investment and make sure it is suitable with your objectives, risk tolerance, risk profile liquidity considerations, tax situation, and anything else pertinent to your financial situation. Also, the CFA credential in no way implies investment returns will be superior for any charter holder.