A Short Story

I had a friend in the Piedmont of NC who inherited nicely back in the late 1930’s when his dad died early. He ran a shirt manufacturing company. This friend sold that company three times and bought the same company back three times when the purchasers failed (my friend always did some of the financing). Each time he did that, including particularly the last time, he did very well financially even given the business failure.

But anyway this friend inherited GE stock also. GE over the years did very well for him, he eventually in the year 2000 held $5 million of GE stock. He was in my investment club, the one that began in 1954, and I was the youngest member by far at the time.

My rants about fake GE accounting through the late 1990’s drove him crazy and he lowered the boom on me a few times along the way in our club meetings. But, as I found out later, he did by both Berkshire and Markel when I presented them at the club meetings. And he bought a significant amount of both.

Today? Well, he was struggling with his technology- at his age we all will- so I went over to his house recently and with his daughter (5 years younger than me) we helped him do some things. His daughter says, “Look at this”…she’s laughing while saying this… and I look and he has $50 mil of stocks and bonds! We laugh and laugh.

So what’s this story about? This guy had a concrete belief about GE…yet he bought Berkshire and Markel instead of adding or submersing himself in GE stock and obsession. It turned out well for him of course to have bought stocks in other businesses.

You can’t be certain…well Buffett and Munger could, but none of us are Buffett or Munger. And I mean absolutely none of us.

Oh and one more thing, luckily we never bought GE in the club!


I’m half way reading through “Lights Out” Pride, Delusion and the fall of GE, worth a read to understand the story and ins and outs of the downfall.