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Killing the Market: Legendary Investor Robert W. Wilson Reviewed By Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com
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Norm Goldman


Reviewer & Author Interviewer, Norm Goldman. Norm is the Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com.

He has been reviewing books for the past fifteen years when he retired from the legal profession.

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By Norm Goldman
Published on May 18, 2016
 

Author:Roemer McPhee

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (May 14, 2016)

ISBN-10: 1492756369    ISBN-13: 978-1492756361




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Author:Roemer McPhee

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (May 14, 2016)

ISBN-10: 1492756369    ISBN-13: 978-1492756361

If you could liken a superstar Wall Street investor to Beethoven or Mozart, Robert W. Wilson would be right up there as the ideal comparison. His Wall Street career spanned five decades beginning in 1958 when his mother gave him an inheritance of $15, 000 in cash. By the year 2000 his net worth was approximately $800 million when he turned to philanthropy giving most of his wealth away including more than $500 million to various institutions. Apparently, he had made more money faster in the stock market than anybody else thus earning him the reputation as an extraordinary stock market guru enabling him to stockpile earnings in a way that confounded many.

Who exactly was this investor-turned- philanthropist? Was he a lucky gambler with an enormous risk tolerance or an astute savvy investor who always expected to win relying on patience, persistence, minimizing mistakes, and understanding the difference between time and timing?

Roemer McPhee, who was educated in history at Princeton University and in finance at the Wharton Graduate School of Business strongly believes that there are few things more powerful than a good example and in the world of investing you certainly can make better investment decisions by studying the financial philosophies of the best in the business. In his most recent tome, Killing the Market: Legendary Investor Robert W. Wilson works from the outside in to better understand the modus operandi of Wilson through citing various investments taken from Wilson's portfolio.

Although Wilson left very few autobiographical traces behind, McPhee, who mentions that he had met him on the social scene after 1989, was able to draw on several business articles concerning his investing acumen particularly that he was often followed in detail by such publications as Barron's, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and Business Week and others as well as various writings concerned with the world of philanthropy.

Consequently, through this extensive research McPhee pieces together and examines several of the two hundred stock positions that were owned by Wilson at one time or another. These comprised such household names as Datapoint, Bowmar Instrument, Lockeed Aircraft, Baldwin-United, Compaq Computer Corp, Burroughs, Pizza Time Theater, Tandy Corporation, Denny's Restaurants, American Airlines and Federal Express.

As an illustration of Wilson's astuteness and sixth sense for self-protection as well as self-preservation, McPhee points to his long position in Compaq Computer when in 1983 he smelled an innovator which in his case meant huge capital gains. Compaq was eventually purchased by Hewlett-Packard twenty years late for $25 billion.

One of Wilson's most recognized strengths was his expertise in short-selling and earned him a fortune as the founding partner of a hedge fund firm, Wilson & Associates. He believed that in short-selling he would never be wiped out in a downturn.

Short-selling consists of selling borrowed shares of stock, betting that will will go down in value before it has to be bought as its most recent closing price. An example of this strategy where Wilson profited handsomely was in 1984 with the famous old Automat food vendor Horn & Hardart where he waited and predicted the downfall of the company. As McPhee states” “This is the kind of short sale that many professional short-sellers take. They wait for certain business doom, with a stock price still alive in the public market, because at that point every share you sell, every dollar you raise by selling stock, is going straight into your bank account.” On the other hand, one of his short-selling ventures did not turn out as planned when in 1978 he bet against Resorts International which had just built the first casino in Atlantic City with a short-sell of 220,000 common shares when the price was around $15 and by the time the stock reached $190 he cut his losses and was out about $10 million.

Wilson was always thorough in his research and throughout his career read the business press voraciously. He also networked a great deal and would exchange ideas with other investors. When Datapoint came out with a small public offering he was immediately interested and loaded up with it and never looked back. In fact, he held it during its ride that lasted a dozen years from 1969 to 1982 which gave him a return of fourteen times his money or a 1,300% gain.

At the age of eighty-seven and after suffering two strokes Wilson sadly died after leaping from his 16th floor apartment residence on Manhattan's Central Park West. Ironically, he was just as pragmatic in death as he was in life as he left a suicide note where he wrote:

I had a rewarding life. Thank you and goodbye to all my friends. Please make sure you cancel all my plans. Tell everyone what I did. I’m not ashamed of killing myself. Sell all my stuff,” the note read, according to law-enforcement sources.”

Killing the Market is by no means an exhaustive study but it does provide readers with a good idea as to what made Wilson tick and how he became an icon of the investment world.

Follow Here To Read Norm's Interview With Roemer McPhee