Scraping together enough coin to win the annual luncheon auction with Warren Buffett is probably beyond the means of most investors. With the proceeds going to benefit charity, last year's winning bidder forked over $1.68 million for the privilege.
Feast or famine
But many investors would love the chance to chow down with Buffett and pick his brain on his investment philosophy and stocks he's considering buying. The same could probably be said for many other value investing legends, too.
Maybe we can't break bread with the greats, but we can peek at their stock ideas through their SEC filings. What we'll do here is pore over the reports of some of the top investors and see which stocks they've chosen as their best investments. We'll then check in with Motley Fool CAPS members to see if they agree.
A few caveats
There's a lag between when the stocks were bought and when the paperwork was filed, so keep in mind they might have been sold in the meantime.
And these legends may be hot investors now, but that can change in an instant. Bill Miller was a wunderkind for 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
So: Do further research. But in the meantime let's take a look at Carl Icahn, chairman of Icahn Capital, which has an equity position valued at nearly $2.9 billion. Although Icahn is called an "activist investor" today, meaning he uses his position in a company to change it (presumably for the better), it wasn't all that long ago that he was better known as a "corporate raider," using massive amounts of leverage to gain control of a company, then strip away the business by selling assets to pay down the debt.
Icahn, T. Boone Pickens, Kirk Kerkorian, and other raiders had to change their ways after the leveraged buyout frenzy died out, and today you'll find them wearing the white hats. Icahn is trying to prevent Lions Gate Entertainment
They might not have completely given up their old ways, but they have found new strategies for turning a profit that don't always include stripping a company of valuable assets.
Fund: Icahn Capital
No. of Stocks Owned: 17
Top 5 Holdings: Motorola
Top Sectors: Health Care, Information Technology, Financials
Like many of the investing legends we've looked at, Icahn's portfolio is highly focused, and while he is secretive, his SEC filing shows that in the last quarter he added only one new company to his portfolio: CIT Group. He bought such a large chunk that it already is one of his top holdings.
With an estimated average buy-in price of $27.92, Icahn has generated a 39.6% return on the investment so far.
Price is what you pay
Icahn wasn't the only investing icon throwing CIT a lifeline. We read here a few weeks ago that Seth Klarman at Baupost Group was part of a coterie of investors taking large stakes in the small-business financier as it sought to stave off bankruptcy. But it was Icahn who became one of its largest shareholders, and he supported the installation of John Thain as CEO.
Maybe it's the run-up in the stock, but since Thain stepped in, there have been more CAPS members making bets against CIT outperforming the market. All-Star clanza875 wonders whether businesses will buy what Thain is selling.
Fools are also wondering what Icahn is planning on doing with Biogen Idec, now that they've made kissy faces at each other and agreed to a compromise. Foolish biotech guru Brian Orelli thinks there may be more long-term planning involved here than you'd expect, but CAPS member jahjimhall isn't so hopeful. He sees Icahn's influence in the sequential cuts in R&D expenditures that Biogen has made recently.
Without question, Icahn has made buying distressed companies at great prices and trying to turn them around into an art form. He isn't always successful, as his cajoling of Yahoo! proved, and Motorola remains a work in progress. Yet he's proven time and again that he can unleash extraordinary returns by taking the most contrary positions.
Value is what you get
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