Invest Like John Griffin – Blue Ridge Capital

If you had to name the top 5 best hedge fund managers ever, Julian Robertson would certainly be on the list. (He’s also from Salisbury, NC which is pretty close to where I grew up in Winston-Salem, and there is a book written about him titled, Julian Robertson: A Tiger in the Land of Bulls and Bears.) From the Wiki entry:

The Tiger funds reached a peak of $22 billion in assets in 1998. However, because of poor stock picking and failure to exploit the technology stock craze, Robertson suffered large losses at the end of the decade. When the Standard and Poor’s 500-stock index climbed 21 percent in 1999, the Tiger funds declined 19 percent.

Tiger’s largest equity holding at that time was U.S. Airways, whose troubles dragged down the value of his holdings. Such missteps ultimately led him to close his investment company in March 2000 and liquidate its remaining $6 billion in investments. Tiger earlier faced huge losses due to their trades against the yen in 1998.

After shutting down portfolio management, Tiger is still in operations, albeit resembling an incubator structure for young managers. Having worked at Tiger is like getting the hedge fund gold seal of approval, and below is a short list of managers that have since started their own funds.

Lawrence Bowman – Bowman
Steven Mandel – Lone Pine
Lee Ainslie – Maverick
John Griffin – Blue Ridge
Andreas Halvorsen – Viking
Tom Brown – Second Curve
Quinn Riordan – Elmwood
Paul Spieldenner – Bamboo

In between science and engineering courses at school, I was able to take a few finance courses. One course that you had to apply to get in was Advanced Seminar in Security Analysis taught by Professor (and Virginia alum) John Griffin. I enrolled in the class the Spring of my Senior year (2000), and was the token science student. More about Griffin from the Stockpickr website:

Blue ridge Capital is managed by John Griffin, former right hand man of Julian Robertson as President of Tiger Management. From 1993 to 1996, he was President of Tiger Management, which he joined in 1987 after two years as a Financial Analyst in the Merchant Banking Group of Morgan Stanley. As an Adjunct Professor of Finance at the Columbia Business School, he teaches “Seminar in Advanced Investment Research.”

Blue Ridge Capital is an investment partnership started by Mr. Griffin in June of 1996. The firm seeks high absolute returns by owning shares in businesses with outstanding investment characteristics and selling short the stock of companies with fundamental problems. Investment decisions are based on detailed, company-specific research with a long-term time horizon.

The focus was teaching the students how to conduct value added fundamental research, and every week a different hedge fund manager or analyst would participate in the classes (I remember Herb Greenberg and Lee Ainslie were there). There was a dedication of the trading floor at the business school to Robertson when I was in the class. The final was to pick a stock, long or short, and present it to a panel of hedge fund managers. My stock (being the biotech guy), was Human Genome Sciences, which went from 30 at the beginning of 2000 to 120ish, back down to about 10 or so now.

The class was outstanding, and was one of the reasons I eventually moved away from the lab bench.

{An interesting aside, Tulane has a program where the business school students form portfolios from small caps in six southern states. It is called Burkenroad Reports, and they have beaten the S&P500 and Russell 2000 eight straight years! If you are ever looking for a fun speaker, Professor Peter Ricchiuti is fantastic}

What is Griffen holding now? You can view his picks below and track them at Stockpickr here: