During the bull market, the main way to get an investment hotshot working for you was by paying "2 and 20" -- hedge fund slang for 2% of assets under management and 20% of the profits. For a while, those fees almost seemed justified. Heck, after reading John Paulson's year-end letter, I got a little envious of the folks with access to such superinvestors, even if they were paying out the nose for the privilege.
Well, after surveying the landscape of jockeys available to the little guy -- us plebes with less than $1 million in liquid net assets -- I have to say that there are some pretty stellar options available today.
Aside from mutual fund managers like Bruce Berkowitz (whose praises we Fools regularly sing) and John Hussman (an unsung hero of 2008), you've also got access to the mini-Berkshire Hathaway
I recently covered Markel's
Unlike Markel, Greenlight Capital Re
Finally, consider Fairfax Financial
Unlike the firms mentioned earlier, neither of the Watsa vehicles produced a profitable underwriting result in 2008. If you're writing business at a loss, that eats into the free lunch provided by insurance float. Given the investment performance, I'm tempted to give these folks a pass for 2008, but we'll need to see better underwriting in the future if these firms ever want to command a lofty book value premium.
Fool contributor Toby Shute owns shares of Hussman Strategic Growth Fund. He doesn't have a position in any other company mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Markel and Berkshire Hathaway. The Fool also has this workhorse of a disclosure policy.