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Are These the Next Warren Buffetts?

December 05, 2012 | About:

Fortune turns the clock back to an article written in 1989 where the magazine looked at several investors who might be the next Warren Buffett.

The best part of the article is the moustache on Chanos. The worst part is that Cramer gets to be on the list and thinks he belongs in this company:

FORTUNE -- Wouldn't you like to become partners with someone who would double your money every three to four years ad infinitum? To put it another way, wouldn't you like to invest with the next Warren Buffett?

Riches come to investors who, early in their lives, find great money managers. Buffett is certifiably one of the greatest. His early clients are now worth tens of millions of dollars (See "And Now A Look at the Old One" in Tap Dancing to Work). He achieved that by compounding money consistently and reliably at about 25% per annum. The young investors you will meet here show signs of comparable talent. But even if they can return only 20% a year -- most have done at least that well so far -- $10,000 invested with them today would be worth $5.9 million in the year 2025.

What reveals their potential? Strong investment performance, of course. But that is not conclusive, especially among young managers who generally lack a ten-year record. More important are certain character traits. Buffett himself starts with ''high-grade ethics. The investment manager must put the client first in everything he does.'' At the very least, the manager should have his net worth invested alongside that of his clients to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Those profiled here have put the bulk of their assets with their customers'. Buffett says he would invest only with someone who handled his mother's money too (as he did).

Brains help, but above a certain level they are not the salient distinction among investment managers. Says Buffett: ''You don't need a rocket scientist. Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with the 130 IQ.'' The size of the investor's brain is less important than his ability to detach the brain from the emotions. ''Rationality is essential when others are making decisions based on short-term greed or fear,'' says Buffett. ''That is when the money is made.''

More often than not, the best money managers, like Buffett, are ''value investors,'' intellectual descendants of the late Benjamin Graham. He emphasized buying securities of companies selling for less than their true worth. The dozen young managers presented here are Graham's grandchildren, in a sense, but they are not necessarily dogmatic Grahamites. A few dredge for average companies at rock-bottom prices -- Graham's specialty. Others follow Buffett's approach and buy great companies at reasonable prices to hold for a long time. Two practice arbitrage, buying stock in companies about to be taken over or restructured in publicly announced deals. One prospers by selling overvalued companies short. Most do some of each, especially in a market where value is increasingly hard to find.

Surveying these relative rookies, a reasonable man should ask, ''How will they do in a bear market?'' Probably better than other money managers because they comprehend the basic rules of investing: No. 1, Don't lose money. No. 2, Don't forget the first rule. Each searches intently for discrepancies between a security's price and its worth, whether measured by asset value, earnings, cash flow, or dividend yield. If they are wrong about a security -- and everyone is sometimes -- the difference between price and value provides a margin of safety.

The best way to spot a potentially outstanding investment manager is to ask another one. Each of the 12 presented below was named by his or her peers as someone they would entrust money to. They tend to handle money for the rich and the famous; each has at least one investor whom any reader of Fortune would recognize -- if the clients allowed their names in print. With the exception of the two who manage mutual funds, the required minimum ranges from $250,000 to $5 million.

Most of these promising players will succeed. Some will fail. But the odds are that at least a few will go on to investing fame and their clients to fortunes. In order of how long they've been managing money on their own:

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Rating: 4.6/5 (5 votes)


Kees van Wanrooij
Kees van Wanrooij - 3 years ago
It would be great of course if someone could figure out what the trackrecords are of the people mentioned and who are presently the guys with very decent 10-15 year trackrecords
Adamcz - 3 years ago
Is that tv personality Jim Cramer? He was once thought of as the next Warren Buffett??
Superguru - 3 years ago
Randy Updyke - Any information on him?

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