Every year, when Joel Greenblatt (Trades, Portfolio) kicks off his value and special-situation investing class at Columbia Business School, he makes his students a guarantee. "If they are good at valuing businesses, the market will agree with them, typically within two or three years," says Greenblatt, who has been an adjunct professor since 1996.
While he can't make any such guarantees to investors, his track record lends validity to this thesis. Using an über-concentrated deep-value approach, the hedge fund he founded in 1985 produced 34% average annual gains, after fees and expenses, for the first decade. At the end of 1994, Greenblatt and his longtime partner, Rob Goldstein, concluded that their growing asset base would impede future returns because their approach was so narrow. They returned shareholders' money and stopped taking outside investments—though they kept their staff and continued to manage their own capital. Continue Reading »