Graham & Doddsville Newsletter: Interview With Li Lu (Columbia Business School) ~ market folly

Monday, May 6, 2013

Graham & Doddsville Newsletter: Interview With Li Lu (Columbia Business School)

Columbia Business School is out with its Graham & Doddsville investment newsletter for Spring 2013.  It features an interview with Li Lu of Himalaya Capital, a man who was dubbed one of Charlie Munger's favorite investment managers.

This interview is really fantastic as he touches on investment process a lot so we'd recommend reading the whole thing below.  But for those pressed for time, here are the takeaways:

Highlights From Li Lu's Interview

On value investing: "There are few people that switch in between or get it gradually.  They either get it right away or they don't get it at all.  I never really tried anything else.  The first time I heard it, it just made sense; and I heard it from the best."

On defining yourself as an investor:  Lu also touched on how you still have to find your own style of investing that matches your personality.  He says, "The game of investing is a process of discovering: who you are, what you're interested in, what you're good at, what you love to do, then magnifying that until you gain a sizable edge over all the other people."  He also added that, "The only way to gain an edge is through long and hard work."

On why he doesn't short anymore:  He listed 3 reasons:  "Three things about shorting make it a miserable business. On the long side, you have 100% downside but unlimited upside. On the short side, you have 100% upside and unlimited down-side. I do not like that math. Second, the best short has some element of fraud. However, a fraud can be perpetrated for a longtime. Of course you borrow to short, so they could really just wear you down. That’s why I could be 100% right and bankrupt at the same time. But, you know what, you go bankrupt first! Lastly, it screws up your mind. Shorts just grab your mind and take away from the concentrated effort that is required to do proper long investing."

On how he finds ideas: "Ideas come to me from all sources, principally from reading and talking."  What's interesting is he doesn't really talk to other investors that much.  He's more keen on chatting with people running businesses.

On the importance of management teams: "(They) always have a big influence on your success, no matter how good or how bad the business is itself.  Management is always part of the equation of making the company successful, so the quality of management always matters.  But to assess that quality is not always easy."

On decision making:  "I think you want to avoid wrong decisions as much or more than you want to get it approximately right.  If you avoid the wrong decisions, you'll probably come out okay over time."

The issue also features pitches from Columbia Business School MBA students on: Motors Liquidation Company (MTLQU), Precision Castparts (PCP), Hertz (HTZ), Advance Auto Parts (AAP), Dollar Tree (DLTR), Stanley Black & Decker (SWK), & Yum Brands (YUM).

Embedded below is the Spring 2013 Graham & Doddsville issue:

You can download a .pdf copy here.

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