Glenn Greenberg Investing Philosophy
Glenn Greenberg maintains a highly concentrated portfolio that he describes as a "defense against ignorance." He believes that the more companies you own, the less you will know about each, and the less you know about a business, the more likely you are to make mistakes due to fear and greed. He usually owns less than 10 stocks. Greenberg invests in companies with little competition, and places a great deal of emphasis on Return On Invested Capital. Greenberg was an English major in college and never contemplated going into investing. He ended up going to Columbia business school with no real career objective. He went to work for J.P. Morgan after b-school. A light bulb went off for Greenberg when he was asked to analyze a company that owned land with redwoods growing on it. He made some enquiries and discovered that the land was worth three times the price at which the company was trading. That shaped his thinking because he learned that there are situations out there where you don't need to be a genius to figure them out. He does feel that there are fewer such opportunities today because schools are turning out large numbers of value investors who are competing against each other. Greenberg worked for five years at J.P. Morgan but was dissatisfied because he did not think he was being trained to be a good money manager. He left and went to work for a small money management firm where he spent five years doing research. He then started his own firm, ten years after leaving school. He believes he profited from the ten years of experience and cautioned audience members about starting their own firm without adequate preparation. At the small firm where he worked, he was trained to internalize the numbers of a potential investment so he could really think about the business. His boss, who was the only one who could buy and sell stocks, would bring Greenberg into his office and grill him about a potential investment. Greenberg was expected to know the business and its numbers inside out. He does not believe in using pre-made spreadsheets. The investor has to become intimate with the financials. He started Chieftain in 1984 with $40 million, which was primarily family money. From the start, he chose to spend as little time on marketing as possible so he could focus on research. He also spent little time talking to clients which he views as non-productive. Those who need of a lot of hand holding are not a good fit for his firm. Since inception, he said he has beaten the market by an average of 8% annually. He recently started a new firm called Brave Warrior Capital. He said he re-focused on reading the source material himself rather than relying on prepared data. He said that you should not use numbers prepared by others, but rather generate them yourself. This will also teach you what numbers you need to focus on. You need to boil it down to a small set of key drivers, because the performance of each business is typically driven by a set of key variables. He first wants to know if a prospective investment is a good business, i.e. could it survive a severe downturn. He then looks to see if it is cheap enough. He again stressed how it is critically important to read the 10-K's. He was using Capital IQ but decided to drop it because he found too many errors. But more importantly by using it, he and his analysts were not becoming personally immersed in the numbers.