Cooperman, Gabelli, Whitman Talk Value

The latest issue of Columbia Business School’s Graham & Doddsville newsletter features interviews with three top investors, Leon Cooperman, Mario Gabelli, and Marty Whitman. (Tip of the cap to for highlighting the newsletter, which can be downloaded via this link.)

In the wide-ranging interviews, Cooperman, Gabelli, and Whitman talk extensively about their own career paths, their broader investment strategies, and their take on the current market. Cooperman, for example, offers his take on why the traditional sense of “value” is too narrow. “What you want is some combination of financial statistics that yell, ‘Buy me,'” he says. “It could be an unusually high growth rate at a proper multiple or it could be a return upfront with modest growth.” Referring to the “nifty fifty” blue-chip investment approach espoused by many in the 1970s, he said, “Their philosophy was ‘only the right stock at any price’ whereas my philosophy is ‘any stock or bond at the right price'”.

Gabelli, meanwhile, offers his advice on how to analyze a company: “The key is to start by getting to know an industry extremely well. That gives you a great perspective. … Start off by reading everything that‘s happened in the last 20 years in an industry. So you read all the trade info and then you cross check. Then understand how that industry relates to other industries. And then you need to understand the stock. First understand the business and then understand the stock. Those two things don’t always go in lockstep.”

Whitman talks a bit about the European debt crisis, which doesn’t seem to have him too worried. “First off, it‘s not going on in Europe, it’s going on in parts of Europe,” he says. “They are very happy in Scandinavia. I’m not smart enough to figure out if I can buy things cheaper than I have. If I can buy these well-capitalized businesses at big discounts, I’m not worried about the market. I just think there are fantastic opportunities in 363s (emergency sale of a company in bankruptcy) and in capital infusions. You could do very well making capital infusions like Warren Buffett has in recent years.”