Harris: Investment advice in the name of charity

Words of wisdom help children

  • Pin It

Black Lincoln SUVs and Town Cars lined up outside the Harris Theater on Tuesday as men in gray suits filled the seats inside.

That visually describes Invest for Kids, a $1,000-per-ticket annual charity event in which a flood of Chicago finance guys gather to listen to the titans of their industry spend 15 minutes each promoting a stock pick or two. Every now and then a speaker doesn't follow the format and delivers a more impressionistic soliloquy. Ahem, Jeffrey Gundlach.

Here's a Twitter-esque wrapup.

Leon Cooperman, of Omega Advisors: "I wouldn't be caught dead owning a U.S. government bond." Buy: Atlas Energy LP, Monitise PLC, Sandridge Energy Inc. and Sprint.

Mark Kingdon, of Kingdon Capital Management: Aegerion Pharmaceuticals and Boeing. He believes in the Dreamliner.

Dinaker Singh, of TPG-Axon Capital Management: Hitachi, where "progress is being made," and Daqin Railway, which operates several railways in China.

Rick Rieder, of BlackRock: Convertible bonds in homebuilder D.R. Horton, Ford Motor Co. and entertainment company MGM.

Steve Kuhn, of Pine River Capital Management: American Capital Ltd. If the company reinstates its dividend, he expects a 40 percent pop in the share price.

Nelson Peltz, of Trian Fund Management LP: Mondelez. But not in a good way. He said the Deerfield-based company isn't doing enough to cut costs, and he plans to release a white paper explaining how the company can increase productivity.

Stephen White, of Castle Union LLC (Chicago): Avid Technologies. The company is in the process of restating its financials, making this a high-risk investment. But White said that if the company "would just suck less," investors should do well, as the company is "seriously undervalued."

Peter Zaldivar, of Kabouter Management (Chicago): Hotel Shilla Co. Ltd., a Korean company with a duty-free shopping unit. The Chinese are driving growth in Asian tourism and covet the luxury brands Hotel Shilla sells, he said.

Sam Zell, of Equity Group Investments LLC (Chicago): Certain sectors of commercial real estate, namely large shopping mall companies, such as Simon Property Group, and multifamily housing in the urban core.

Gundlach, of DoubleLine Capital LP: Opened with a picture and description of a Paul Cezanne painting. He ended with "don't get sucked in to" Netflix, Tesla and Amazon.

Steve Eisman, of Emrys Partners: Ocwen Financial Corp. and Altisource Portfolio Solutions. Mortgage-related services are "moving away from banks and to specialists," he said.

Marc Lasry, of Avenue Capital Group: J.C. Penney and Connacher Oil and Gas Ltd. bonds. This will work only if the companies don't file for bankruptcy.

Urgent matter

Howard G. Buffett, a Decatur resident and Warren Buffett's middle child, got the title of his new book from an instructor at the "planter's school" at his local John Deere dealership.

The instructor said, "'You know, you really need to stop and realize that by the time your dad gets off the tractor and you get on, and you get off and your son or daughter gets on that tractor, you've got about 40 years to grow the best crop you're going to grow,'" Buffett recalled. "You've got about 40 years to be the best you can be."

The book, co-written with his son, is titled "40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World." He called on other philanthropists to have more urgency, saying that the Howard G. Buffett Foundation would spend all its assets and sunset in the next 40 years. The Omaha World-Herald reported the sunset date as Dec. 31, 2045.

The foundation's wealth comes from Howard's father, who bequeathed it Berkshire Hathaway stock valued at $43.9 million in 2009, $56.2 million in 2010 and $51.8 million in 2011, according to tax filings.

"I think every NGO in the world should think about being out of business in 40 years," he said. "Because it's going to change how you think about it. It's going to change who you hire, what your goals are, what your priorities are, what your focus is. If you look at the challenges we have, particularly in hunger, a lot of people have spent great financial resources on it, but we're not really winning. And there's a reason we're not. We've got to change the way we think about it."

Out of the office

"Remote: Office Not Required," the new book from business partners Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, of Chicago's 37signals, could be read as a Marissa Mayer smackdown.

The vitriol for Mayer's no-work-from-home policy appears to be all Hansson, though, as Fried struck a conciliatory tone on the topic in a discussion with me Tuesday at a Human Resources Management Association conference in Rosemont.

"You'll read in the book that we think that was a bad idea, but my personal feeling is that I don't think it's a good idea to second-guess new leadership," Fried said of Mayer. Still, Fried criticized companies that are "basically saying we can't be a family, we can't make great products, we can't do any of these things because 3 percent of our company works remotely. That's ridiculous."

Fried's company, 37signals, has 41 employees, 28 of whom work remotely in cities around the world. The book is a how-to on creating and managing a remote workforce. Among the key points is creating an online chat room, where remote workers can re-create water cooler-type conversations; using Web conferencing technology, such as WebEx; and gathering employees for a week twice a year.

One benefit of remote work is that it ensures fewer meetings, which Fried thinks increases productivity. There's not much Fried hates more than meetings.

"There's no such thing as a one-hour meeting unless there's only one person in that room for an hour," Fried said. "But that's not how meetings work. There's six or seven people in a room, or 10 people in a room. So a one-hour meeting is a 10-hour meeting. You have to multiply the time spent in the meeting by every person that's there. And then you start to go, was this really worth 10 hours?"

Melissa Harris can be reached at mmharris@tribune.com or 312-222-4582.

Twitter @chiconfidential

  • Pin It