Invest With the Masters

Scraping together enough coin to win the annual luncheon auction with Warren Buffett is probably beyond most investors' means. With the proceeds going to charity, this year's winning bidder forked over $2.63 million for the privilege.

Feast or famine
While we likely can't afford to break bread with the greats, we can peek at their stock ideas through their SEC filings. Here, we'll pore over some of the top investors' reports to see which stocks they've chosen as their best investments. We'll then check in with Motley Fool CAPS members to learn whether they agree.

First, a few caveats ...

  • There's a delay between when the stocks were bought and when these investors filed their paperwork, so they might have sold out since. 
  • These legends may be hot investors now, but that can change in an instant. Bill Miller was a wunderkind after beating the market 15 years in a row. Then he went cold for three. He came back in 2009, but we don't know what 2010 will bring.

Contrary to popular opinion
Fools should definitely do their own further research here. But in the meantime, let's take a look at Ian Cumming, chairman of Leucadia National (NYSE: LUK  ) , an investment company that's often described as a miniature Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A  ) . And why not? It runs a commercial mortgage origination and servicing joint venture with Berkshire. So let's take a look at where he is buying today.

Company: Leucadia National
No. of Stocks Owned: 5
Top 5 Holdings: Jeffries Group (NYSE: JEF  ) , AmeriCredit, International Assets Holding (Nasdaq: IAAC  ) ,Capital Southwest, TravelCenters of America
Top Sectors:
Financials

Although it owns positions in just five publicly traded companies -- four really, as General Motors just completed its acquisition of auto financing company AmeriCredit -- Leucadia also owns companies that operate across a broad cross-section of the economy, including lumber facilities, prepaid phone cards, independent oil and gas services, property management, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Biloxi, real estate operations, a copper and iron ore mine, a winery, and a medical products company. Now it's a little more clear why it's compared to Berkshire.

Price is what you pay
Accounting for 61% of Leucadia's portfolio (prior to the acquisition of AmeriCredit, anyway), Jeffries Group is an international investment bank. Both Cummings and his partner at Leucadia, Joseph Steinberg, sit on its board of directors. It's not one of the top-tier investment houses on Wall Street, but its reputation is growing. It was certainly helped along by being the advisor to XTO Energy when ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) bought it out.

While Jeffries is plainly known to its Wall Street brethren (but only six out of 10 rank it to outperform the market), more than three quarters of CAPS members rating the investment bank believe it will continue to post market-beating results.

Financial stocks have been doing well lately but is this one right for you? You can put Jeffries into Fool.com's free portfolio tracker, My Watchlist, and deposit your opinion on the Jeffries Group CAPS page too.

The pot calling out the kettle
Although Leucadia's other three holdings are general liked by the CAPS community, carry three- or four-star ratings they hold miniscule positions in the conglomerate's portfolio. International Assets Holding, an international equities market maker, holds the biggest piece, but at a little more than 1% it's not much to write home about.

More interesting might be its position with Fortescue Metals Group, Australia's third-largest iron ore producer behind Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO  ) and BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP  ) . Leucadia's 8% interest in Fortescue was worth $1.1 billion back in September. It also holds a $100 million subordinated note that's proven to be lucrative to Leucadia, but the company and Fortescue are in the midst of a kerfuffle over Fortescue's desire to issue more notes to other lenders on the same terms.

Leucadia doesn't think the miner has the right to issue those notes, since it believes more notes will dilute its own interest.

The investment company is pretty well-liked on CAPS, carrying a five-star rating and 98% of the 1,250 members who rated it say it will outperform the broad market averages. GreatorGator has called it the "poor man's Berkshire," while earlier this summer, highly rated All-Star nibs61 said that an investment in Leucadia was a bet on the quality of its management team:

This is a gamble on the talented management team they have in place. Their [debt] scares me a little, but they have done everything right so far and still have not gone international which could really send this stock soaring if done right.

Value is what you get
Become an investing legend yourself by starting your own research on these stocks on Motley Fool CAPS. Read a company's financial reports, scrutinize key data and charts, and examine the comments your fellow investors have made, all from a stock's CAPS page.

Sign up today for the completely free service, and tell us whether these stocks are as good a value as these investing legends think they are.

Berkshire Hathaway is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Berkshire Hathaway and Leucadia National are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and ExxonMobil. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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