Book Review – There’s Always Something to Do

Just finished reading the book “There’s always something to do.”   This book is a great profile of Canadian value-investor Peter Cundill.   A great read about an investor I knew little about.

A few basics of his approach:

  • Very focused on margin of safety.  Loved looking at “net-nets”, where there was balance sheet value ahead of equity value.
  • Feels like that disciplined value process should generate returns in the teens over time if you are patient
  • Appointed a devil’s advocate on the research team after a bad experience w/ group think
  • Was early in looking international.  Used to visit country with worst performing stock market in prior 12 months each November
  • Full of joie de vivre, sounds like quiet a character
  • Still living, but sadly had to retire b/c of a rare neurological disorder.  Seems to be a great reminder to seize each day with gusto

Cundill Snipits:

  • “my primary objective is to make money for my clients and then to make my business profitable.  I believe that the way to achieve this is through associating with truly competent people with unshakeable business integrity, to ensure strict financial controls, a culture of thoroughness, a measured capacity for action.  What I am beginning to perceive is that investors tend to follow trends and fashion rather than taking the trouble to look for value.”
  • “Once the analysis is complete and you have the reached the firm conviction that the investment is right, you should not try to be too clever about the purchase price.  If you have to take a loss do it decisively, don’t dither.  Learn the lessons and then forget about it.”
  • “The fund would automatically sell half of any given position when it doubled…with the fund manager then left with full discretion as to when to sell the balance.”
  • “None of the great investments come easily.  There is almost always a major blip for whatever reason and we have learnt to expect it and not to panic.”
  • “Intellectually active people are particularly attractive to elegant concepts, which can have the effect of distracting them from the simpler, more fundamental, truths”
  • “Every company ought to have an escape valve: inventory that can be readily reduced, a division that can be sold, a marketable investment portfolio, an ability to shed staff.  However, no escape valve will provide a cushion in the face of a collapse in investor confidence.”
  • “THE MOST IMPORTANT ATTRIBUTE FOR SUCCESS IN VALUE INVESTING IS PATIENCE, PATIENCE, and MORE PATIENCE.”

Top Books of 2014

It was a busy year of reading – here are the top books we read in 2014 – organized in rank order

Biography/History

  1. Cable Cowboy: John Malone and the Rise of the Modern Cable Business
  2. The King of Cash: The Inside Story of Laurence Tisch
  3. Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the FinancialSystem–and Themselves
  4. Flash Boys
  5. The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters
  6. The Wolf of Wall Street
  7. The Greatest Trade Ever: The Behind-the-Scenes Story of How John Paulson Defied Wall Street and Made Financial History
  8. Hedge Hunters: After the Credit Crisis, How Hedge Fund Masters Survived
  9. The Warren Buffett CEO: Secrets from the Berkshire Hathaway Managers
  10. The Vulture Investors, Revised and Updated
  11. The Towering World of Jimmy Choo: A Glamorous Story of Power, Profits, and the Pursuit of the Perfect Shoe
  12. The Barry Diller Story: The Life and Times of America’s Greatest Entertainment Mogul
  13. Winner Takes All: Steve Wynn, Kirk Kerkorian, Gary Loveman, and the Race to Own Las Vegas
  14. Masters of the Universe: Winning Strategies Of America’s Greatest Deal Makers

Business Management

  1. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
  2. Double Your Profits: In Six Months or Less
  3. Boards That Deliver: Advancing Corporate Governance From Compliance to Competitive Advantage
  4. The Board Book: An Insider’s Guide for Directors and Trustees
  5. What the CEO Wants You to Know : How Your Company Really Works

Other

  1. No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden
  2. Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son
  3. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
  4. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
  5. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead