Martin Whitman Roundtable Discussion at Syracuse University

Thanks to for the original citation of a roundtable discussion with Martin Whitman at Syracuse University. Martin Whitman, who generally speaks his mind (sort of like Charlie Munger) :), gives his thoughts on the current environment. If you have been following him lately, most of his comments repeat what he hsa been saying lately. I do find him insightful and reinforces some of my thinking. So check it out if you have some time.

I was also searching the Syracuse University website (Martin Whitman sponsors the university) for older material and came up with the 2006 Whitman Day talk. I find this 2006 talk a lot more interesting. I think you can learn a bit more about Martin Whitman's thinking from this talk.

I'm still a newbie trying to figure out what investing style suits me and whether I'm cut out for investing. I haven't paid much attention to Martin Whitman in the past (in fact, I remember posting on some message board a few years ago that I didn't know Martin Whitman). Back then, I was more influenced by (not in any order) Marc Faber, Jim Rogers, David Dreman, Charlie Munger, and Warren Buffett. Now, however, I find myself paying more attention to Martin Whitman almost as much, if not more, than any of those I mentioned. One of the reasons is probably because I have extracted all the knowledge I can from other superinvestors. For example, I feel like I know exactly what Jim Rogers or Marc Faber are thinking and doing. Similarly, I feel like Warren Buffett is beaten to death and there isn't much new. This is not to say I know everything (I still have to read his past shareholder letters) but I kind of know what Buffett will say. Whitman, on the other hand, is more of an enigma to me.

The big downside to following Martin Whitman is that most of his strategies are next to impossible to execute for a small investor. Whitman focuses on restructurings, bankruptcies, and so forth, and it's really hard to invest in any of that without a lot of money or without working in the industry. However, as Whitman often remarks, he is more of an OPMI (outside passive minority investor) than Warren Buffett (this means he is actually closer to a small investor than Buffett). A lot of people don't realize that, although Buffett doesn't take direct control of firms he invests in, he actually has big influence on them--something you or me will never have (at least with our present feeble state ;) ). For example, when Buffett invested in Coca-Cola, he was able to joing the board of directors. In fact Buffett often meets/talks with CEOs of his companies on a regular basis and provides suggestions. This is something that Martin Whitman generally doesn't do (except as a control party in a restructuring.)


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