The man who made “safe and cheap” a value investing mantra passed away earlier this month, according to a recent Bloomberg article.
Whitman created the Third Avenue Value Fund in 1990 and, according to the article, during his tenure (ending in 2012) the fund earned an average return of 12 percent (versus 9 percent for the S&P 500). In 1990, he was named Morningstar’s mutual fund manager of the year.
Raised in the Bronx, Whitman used the G.I. Bill (he served in the U.S. Navy during WWII) to obtain an undergraduate degree in business administration from Syracuse University, and went on to earn a master’s in economics from the New School of Social Research. He began his career as a security analyst at Shearson, Hammill & Co. in 1950 and developed his investing approach while working in the family office of William Rosenwald, son of a founder of Sears Roebuck.
Whitman differentiated his value investing style from that of legends Benjamin Graham and David Dodd, the article reports: “Where Graham and Dodd ‘give primacy to forecasting’ cash flows and earnings, Whitman said he based his decisions almost exclusively on balance sheets.” In a 2005 interview with Bloomberg Television, Whitman said, “We’re pretty much buy-and-hold. We don’t trade. Value investing means you’re price-conscious more than outlook-conscious.” In his 1979 book “The Aggressive Conservative Investor,” Whitman referred to his strategy as “the financial-integrity approach” which, the article explains, evolved over the years to “the safe and cheap approach.”
Whitman was an adjunct lecturer and professor as well as a distinguished fellow in finance at the Yale University School of Management until 2008.