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The Billion Dollar Mistake: Learning the Art…

The Billion Dollar Mistake: Learning the Art of Investing Through the…

by Stephen L. Weiss

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This book surprised me.
Normally this type of book wouldn't interest me as I have no celebrity type fascination with legendary investors. Nor do I have any illusions of becoming a Buffet or a Soros (neither of which is featured in this book) so why would I want to know about the mistakes these types of investors would make? But the book kept popping up to the point where I finally decided to give it a shot. Well..... turns out the mistakes the Big Boys make as the exact same mistakes that the humble of us make - the scale is just different. Author Weiss does an excellent job of describing each individual investor and the details what went into making their biggest financial error. While the author does a commendable job of writing the sketches he goes a step beyond with by putting a "Lessons Learned" section at the end of each chapter. This, to me, is the real value of the book. A beginning investor could do worse than learning the lessons of each chapter to avoid some of the pitfalls and cons out there. And the more experienced investor could use this book as a reality check to make sure he/she isn't falling into some bad habits. Personally I intend to use this book as a New Year's resolution type device - re-reading "Lessons Learned" every Jan. 1 as a checklist of optimal trading.
Another aspect of the book that bears mentioning is the section on short trading (chap 9). Shorting has always been confusing to me but this author not only cleared up the confusion but suggested alternative methods to get some of the benefits of shorting without all of the risk (shorting carries unlimited risk but in certain instances it can be a very useful and profitable strategy). Outstanding. The book also contains a short but very nice glossary explaining general trading terms.
The reason the book did not receive a full 5 star rating from me was due to the fact of there being no 'further reading' section. While the book is complete without it, there were topics that I would have liked to research more deeply and I would have enjoyed the author's suggestions.
Great book and one I will reference time and again. What a very pleasant surprise! ( )
  buchowl | Mar 25, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0470481064, Hardcover)

Important investment lessons gleaned from the mistakes of accomplished professional investors and billionaire businessmen

The Billion Dollar Mistake is an up-close account of the career-defining mistakes that some of the world's most brilliant billionaire investors have made, and a revealing look at what we can learn from them. Drawing on author Stephen Weiss' twenty-two years experience at some of Wall Street's most prestigious firms, the core of this book is based upon original research and interviews with these legendary investors, who discuss the most significant trade or investment that went against them, the magnitude of the loss, its effect on their businesses-and on their personal lives. To some, these fascinating accounts will read like a novel; to others, it will be a treasured and unique investment guide.

This intriguing book skillfully examines the causal relationship between the quirks of each investor's personality and the mistakes they have committed. Along the way, Weiss provides a series of compelling narrative accounts of the individuals' road to success, the particular mistakes they made, the character flaws that led to them, and the lessons learned. While some investors made errors of judgment, others made errors of perception. The Billion Dollar Mistake
Uncovers important lessons learned from the failures of some of the most enduring and accomplished investors, including Kirk Kerkorian, Bill Ackman, Aubrey McClendon and Leon Cooperman Discusses how to incorporate these lessons into your investment discipline and avoid the same missteps Reveals common mistakes made by bigger investors that the average investor can relate-the only difference is in magnitude with more zeros attached to the loss Includes insights on improving your investment endeavors by refining your approach to today's markets

Learning from the missteps of the best in the investment business can help you succeed. With The Billion Dollar Mistake, you'll discover how.

Get to Know the Billionaires
Amazon-exclusive content from the authors of The Billion Dollar Mistake

These are the Billionaires. Follow their paths to incredible wealth, observe their investment missteps as if you are in the room while they are being made and learn how to become a better investor by avoiding these common errors in judgment.

“Better be wise by the misfortune of others than by your own” – Aesop

Bill Ackman
Discipline means discipline
- Bill Ackman and his firm, Pershing Square, had a very profitable experience with Barnes & Noble. Ackman believed he could replicate that success with Borders Group, a competing chain of bookstores, but in order to make that investment he had to violate his discipline. The result was far from what he had hoped.

David Bonderman
Always do your due diligence
- David Bonderman, a very careful, accomplished investor, had a long personal and professional history with the CEO of Washington Mutual, and saw opportunity in the popular banking institution. With only a week or so in which to perform due diligence, Bonderman and his firm invested $2 billion in the troubled company. Only five months later, the FDIC seized the bank's assets, making it the biggest bank failure ever.

Leon Cooperman
The absence of regulatory safeguards is a sign of danger ahead
- Leon Cooperman was the top investment strategist on Wall Street and a senior partner at Goldman Sachs before forming Omega Advisors, a hedge fund. Presented with the opportunity to invest in the privatization of Azerbaijan's state oil company, Cooperman took the chance but would soon regret it, a victim of fraud by a well-paid employee and an unregulated emerging market.

Chris Davis
Don't own what you don't know
- In 2005, Chris Davis significantly increased the Davis Financial Fund's investment in AIG, a company the $60 billion Davis portfolio had owned for more than thirty years. Between the initial investment and the time he added to the position, the AIG in which Chris Davis chose to go "all in" had become a fundamentally different entity - much more complex and murky than a traditional insurance company. When AIG stock plummeted, the loss took a significant toll on the fund's total value.

Geoff Grant
Don't be blinded by outsized returns
- Geoff Grant's Peloton Partners found extraordinary success - rising 87 percent in 2007 - with the trading of asset-backed securities (ABS). But with the onset of the global credit crunch, other ABS investors ran for the exits while Peloton stayed put - ultimately wiping out the firm and $2 billion. Weiss counsels caution in chasing hyper-returns, particularly when your style has to drift to get there.

Kirk Kerkorian
Passion is not an investment strategy
- Kirk Kerkorian's passion for the American auto industry drove four attempts, three realized, to buy into the Big Three automakers. That passion, combined with early investment successes in the industry, ultimately led to a loss of nearly $800 million when Kerkorian took a large position in Ford. In the world of investing, emotion is the antithesis of discipline. Passion cannot override objectivity.

Bernie Madoff's investors
Be skeptical
- Investors who lost billions to Bernie Madoff seemed to have found a deal that was too good to be true - consistent returns at a discount (no fees!). But if something appears too good to be true, it probably is. Investing demands a healthy dose of skepticism. Weiss details the lessons to be learned and followed when temptation presents itself.

Nick Maounis
Understand risk
- Nick Maounis and his Amaranth hedge fund found phenomenal success in energy trading before losing more than $6 billion in less time than it takes a half-moon to complete its cycle. Although Amaranth had a highly developed risk management function designed to avert such disasters, the reality is that risk management offers no guarantees. If risk can be the downfall of brilliant and experienced traders, where does that leave the individual investor? Weiss provides the answer to this important question and the lessons for navigating individual risk.

Aubrey McClendon
Leverage is a double-edged sword
- Aubrey McClendon leveraged himself to the hilt to buy millions of shares of his own company, Chesapeake Energy. It was a strategy that created a $4 billion fortune. But when gas prices slid, margin calls wiped out nearly all his holdings in the company he had started with just $50,000. Buying on margin - that is, with borrowed money - allows investors to increase the size of their investments, but the penalty for being wrong can be severe.

Adolf Merckle
Short selling: Proceed with caution
- Adolf Merckle was one of the wealthiest people in Germany when he risked a fortune "shorting" Volkswagen stock. His multi-hundred-million-dollar bet that the stock price would decline proved a risk he couldn't afford to take, particularly with the rest of his business empire crumbling. With more than a little help from Porsche, VW stock skyrocketed and Merckle - after being forced to sell off assets and beg for loans - hurled himself in front of an oncoming train. Short selling requires a very cautious approach including the observance of specific rules that Weiss details in this chapter.

Richard Pzena
Declining stock prices may not equal opportunity
- Richard Pzena saw the collapse in residential mortgages and the tanking of financial stocks in late 2007 and early 2008 as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to pay bargain basement prices for Citigroup, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. Less than a year later, and with financial stocks comprising 40 percent of Pzena's portfolio, Fannie and Freddie were nationalized - essentially wiping out their equity value. Stocks are rarely inefficiently priced, Weiss warns, offering insights on finding opportunity in potential calamity - and avoiding the reverse.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:21 -0400)

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