1. Greatest Investors: Introduction
  2. The Greatest Investors: John (Jack) Bogle
  3. The Greatest Investors: Warren Buffett
  4. The Greatest Investors: David Dreman
  5. The Greatest Investors: Philip Fisher
  6. The Greatest Investors: Benjamin Graham
  7. The Greatest Investors: William H. Gross
  8. The Greatest Investors: Carl Icahn
  9. The Greatest Investors: Jesse L. Livermore
  10. The Greatest Investors: Peter Lynch
  11. The Greatest Investors: Bill Miller
  12. The Greatest Investors: John Neff
  13. The Greatest Investors: William J. O'Neil
  14. The Greatest Investors: Julian Robertson
  15. The Greatest Investors: Thomas Rowe Price, Jr.
  16. The Greatest Investors: James D. Slater
  17. The Greatest Investors: George Soros
  18. The Greatest Investors: Michael Steinhardt
  19. The Greatest Investors: John Templeton
  20. The Greatest Investors: Ralph Wanger

Benjamin Graham

Born: London in 1894; Died 1976
Affiliations:
  • Newburger, Henderson & Loeb
  • Graham-Newman Corporation
Most Famous For: Ben Graham excelled as an investment manager and financial educator. He authored, among others, two investment classics of unparalleled importance. He is also universally recognized as the father of two fundamental investment disciplines – security analysis and value investing.

His two seminal books, "Security Analysis" (1934), written with David Dodd, and "TheIntelligent Investor" (1949) are considered by many investment professionals to be the best books ever written for stock investors. Both of these books have never been out of print and are still used as texts for university-level courses on investing. (For more insight, see Investing Books It Pays To Read and Financial Wisdom From Three Wise Men.)

John Train, in his investment classic, "The Money Masters" (1980), cites Graham\'s brilliance and influence as such: "Benjamin Graham ranks as this century\'s (and perhaps history\'s) most important thinker on applied portfolio investment, taking it from an art, based on impressions, inside information, flair, to a proto-science, an orderly discipline. He applied great astuteness, hard experience, and infinitely detailed labor to a field full of superstition, tips and guesswork, one in which most people who have something to say also have an incentive to deceive the listener."
He is also famous for being a teacher and mentor for Warren Buffet as well as for other well-known investors.

Personal Profile

Benjamin Graham came to the United States as a one-year-old immigrant from England in 1895. He grew up in Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York. His father died when he was nine years old and the family's hard times, economically speaking, left Graham with a lifetime preoccupation with achieving financial security.

He graduated from ColumbiaUniversity in 1914 and went to work immediately for a Wall Street firm, Newburger, Henderson & Loeb, as a messenger. By 1920, he was a partner in the firm.


In 1926, Graham formed an investment partnership with Jerome Newman and started lecturing at Columbia on finance, an endeavor which lasted until his retirement in 1956. It is reported that Graham was wiped out personally in the stock market crash of 1929, but the investment partnership survived and gradually recouped its position. (For more insight, see The Greatest Market Crashes.)

Ben Graham learned some valuable lessons from this experience and, in 1934, co-authored a hefty textbook titled "Security Analysis", which is widely considered an investment classic. The Graham-Newman partnership prospered, boasting an average annual return of 17% until its termination in 1956.

Investment Style
Morningstar's online Interactive Classroom carries this anecdote about the results of Ben Graham's investing style:

"In 1984, [Warren] Buffet returned to Columbia to give a speech commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of "Security Analysis". During that speech, he presented his own investment record as well as those of Ruane, Knapp, and Schloss [other successful investment managers who were students of Graham at Columbia]. In short, each of these men posted investment results that blew away the returns of the overall market. Buffett noted that each of the portfolios varied greatly in the number and type of stocks, but what did not vary was the managers' adherence to Graham's investment principles."

It is difficult to encapsulate Benjamin Graham's investing style in a few sentences or paragraphs. Readers are strongly urged to refer to his "The Intelligent Investor" to obtain a more thorough understanding of his investment principles.

In brief, the essence of Graham's value investing is that any investment should be worth substantially more than an investor has to pay for it. He believed in thorough analysis, which we would call fundamental analysis. He sought out companies with strong balance sheets, or those with little debt, above-average profit margins, and ample cash flow. (For more insight, see Introduction To Fundamental Analysis and Testing Balance Sheet Strength.)

He coined the phrase "margin of safety" to explain his common-sense formula that seeks out undervalued companies whose stock prices are temporarily down, but whose fundamentals, for the long run, are sound. The margin of safety on any investment is the difference between its purchase price and its intrinsic value. The larger this difference is (purchase price below intrinsic), the more attractive the investment - both from a safety and return perspective - becomes. The investment community commonly refers to these circumstances as low value multiple stocks (P/E, P/B, P/S).




Graham also believed that market valuations (stock prices) are often wrong. He used his famous "Mr. Market" parable to highlight a simple truth: stock prices will fluctuate substantially in value. His philosophy was that this feature of the market offers smart investors "an opportunity to buy wisely when prices fall sharply and to sell wisely when they advance a great deal."

Publications

  • "Security Analysis" (1934) by Benjamin Graham and David Dodd
  • "The Intelligent Investor" by Benjamin Graham (1949)
  • "Benjamin Graham: The Memoirs Of The Dean Of Wall Street" by Benjamin Graham and Seymour Chatman (editor) (1996)
  • "Benjamin Graham On Value Investing: Lessons From The Dean Of Wall Street" by Janet Lowe (1999)

Quotes

"To achieve satisfactory investment results is easier than most people realize; to achieve superior results is harder than it looks."

" Most of the time stocks are subject to irrational and excessive price fluctuations in both directions as the consequence of the ingrained tendency of most people to speculate or gamble … to give way to hope, fear and greed."

"Even the intelligent investor is likely to need considerable willpower to keep from following the crowd."

"It is absurd to think that the general public can ever make money out of market forecasts."

"It is rare that the founder of a discipline does not find his work eclipsed in rather short order by successors. But for over forty years after publication of the book ["Security Analysis"] that brought structure and logic to a disorderly and confused activity, it is difficult to think of possible candidates for even the runner-up position in the field of security analysis." (Warren Buffet, Financial Analyst Journal, November/December 1976)
The Greatest Investors: William H. Gross

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