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Walter Schloss

is considered one of the investment greats, a value investor in the same league as the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet. Like Buffett, Walter Schloss was also trained under the legendary Benjamin Graham. For a brief while in the 1950s, Schloss and Buffet even shared the same office.

For sheer uninterrupted performance record, few investors can match Walter Schloss. For 45 years from 1955 to 2000, he managed the investment partnership, Walter J. Schloss Associates and delivered an astounding compound annual return of more than 15 per cent per year compared to a gain of S&P 500 of just over 10 per cent.

And this is what Buffet had to say about Walter Schloss: "He knows how to identify securities that sell at considerably less than their value to a private owner: And that's all he does. He owns many more stocks that I do and is far less interested in the underlying nature of the business; I don't seem to have very much influence on Walter. That is one of his strengths; no one has much influence on him."

"One of the things we've done is hold over a hundred companies in our portfolio. Now Warren (Buffet) has said to me that, that is a defence against stupidity. And my argument was, and I made it to Warren, we can't project the earnings of these companies, they are secondary companies, but somewhere along the line some of them will work. Now I cannot tell you which ones, so I buy a hundred of them. Of course, it does not mean you own the same amount of each stock."

"I'm not very good at judging people. So I found that it was much better to look at figures rather than people. I didn't go to many meetings unless they were relatively nearby. I like the idea of company-paid dividends, because I think it makes management a little more aware of stockholders, but we did not really talk about it, because we were small. I think if you were big, if you were a Fidelity, you wanted to go out and talk to management. They would listen to you. I think it is really easy to use numbers when you're small."

"Timidity prompted by past failures causes investors to miss the most important bull markets."

"We did not get involved in many companies that turned crooked. I know there were a few people that had poor reputations and their stocks were low, and when we did buy some of those we were sorry afterwards because they figured out a way of taking advantage of you, and you were always worried that they'd do something that didn't like."

"When companies have problems they often like to have their annual meetings in cities and states where there are not too many stockholders."

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 14, 2007)
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