Dan Sweet

With HPQ at 7-year lows – this board member is backing up the truck

Big insider buying by a board member at Hewlett Packard (HPQ) came across SEC.gov via a Form 4 filing on 5/30/12.

Ralph V Whitworth is an activist investor who runs Relational Investors LLC and took his HP board seat back in November 2011.  He / RI LLC owned 17 million shares then and has just upped the position to 29 million shares.  This was 6-7% of the portfolio and should now be getting close to 11-12% of RI LLC holdings.  Recent prices are right around the level where he started buying back in October.

The Bloomberg article linked above lists a series of pretty big moves coming out of prior board positions he has held at other companies.  With a 14-person board I’m skeptical of anyone’s ability to drive change but this guy has a pretty impressive track record, so I’ll be watching.

What do you think?  Is it time to buy HPQ?


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Simple Portfolio for 2011

Placed the orders this morning. (<3 Interactive Brokers and $1 commissions.) AAPL 14% (Huge margins, huge revenue growth, tons of cash.) GOOG 22% ("Less than free” looks likely to crush most competitors.)
GTU 23% (US policymakers will continue printing money = gold higher.)
FCX 20% (The developing world will continue developing.)
IBB 22% (All those smart scientists will eventually do something cool.)

I’m often accused of being ADD in my fantasy baseball league, so we’ll see how long I can leave this alone. Ideally I wouldn’t touch this for at least a year or two.

How not to invest.

I am not good at trading. I try to be honest with myself, admit that, and avoid trading. However, in our Jim Cramer/Fast Money era it seems like you are leaving money on the table if you don’t have at least a couple positions on at all times.

Here is a summary of my trades of the last 4 years or so.

Trade #1 (Winner) – Buy Gold via CEF with gold at $600 back in 2008ish? Sell at $1000+ and rebuy at $900. Just sold again at $1500+ last week. 2.5x

Trade #2 (Winner) – Close all positions with market at roughly 11,000 in fall 2008 when I see on C-SPAN that Congress isn’t going to pass first TARP bill. I look like a hero as market falls to 6,000ish. Avoid getting cut in half.

No Trade #2.5 (Loser) – I never rebuy. Buffett say its time to buy, I see 4,000 around the corner and take a pass. Market now at 12,000+ and all of a sudden Trade #2 doesn’t look so great. Miss an easy double.

Trade #3 (Loser) – Try to make money shorting commercial real estate over a long period of time using a short term structured ETF. Very bad idea, lose lots of money. I suck at trading. I’m reminded yet again to not even play if you aren’t going to put the work in. Lose 75% of position.

Trade #4 (Winner) – Buy SLV at $13.89. Sell last week at $45ish. 3x

Net – I’m basically completely flat over those 4 years. Basically on par with the market.

I’m completely in cash now but want to get back in and “set it and forget it.”

Current shopping list looks like this:
Buy CEF (Canadian gold trust)

This passes the Warren Buffett test where hypothetically the market closes tomorrow for 10 years. I’d feel just fine owning these three. Keep it simple.

Big and Small

I find Vinod Khosla fascinating.  He founded Sun Microsystems, was a general partner at Kleiner Perkins, and then formed his own fund where he now focuses on cleantech investing.  He’s from San Francisco but he talks trash about hybrids, solar, and wind power.

This post over at VentureHacks brought this recent interview with Vinod Khosla to my attention.  Vinod is on from 10:40 to 20:40.  If you want to hear the LinkedIn founder not answer some questions in a typical CEO-like manner feel free to watch the preceding portion of the video.  I wouldn’t bother.

A couple quotes that struck a chord with me from this video:

“If you succeed, it better be material.  I say, I don’t mind failing, but if I succeed it better be worth succeeding instead of some incremental thing.”


“This is really really important and misunderstood about startups.  Startups aren’t big or small, they are MADE big or small.  So an entrepreneur picking the right partner will more likely end up as a big company than if they pick the wrong partner who wants a 3x return on their money.  Any investor who looks at exit strategies, or multiples of investment, or even does an IRR calculation, a rate of return calculation, probably is the wrong partner for you.”

I work for P&G.  Everything we do is huge.  At the same time most of what we do is very very small.  We are absolutely thrilled if we grow a business 10%.  We consider 5% growth a very solid performance.  We regularly put significant effort into growing a tiny piece of something in one small channel a couple percentage points, do this all a few times over, and then are proud to put together a plan that moves the needle by incremental points (by points I mean one or two).

When we do something new, we do WAY more than “an IRR calculation”.  We’ve got teams of people from multiple functions, worksheets with tons of tabs, financial review meetings, and  years-long timetables.  According to Vinod, this would be guaranteed to smother the idea, result in failure, or at the very best something only “incremental.”  And often that is what happens.  However, occasionally the team turns out a Swiffer and builds a billion dollar category out of thin air.  P&G is full of paradoxes.  Big and small.

You, a billionaire, are asked to address a 9th grade graduation…

…obviously you blow them off and continue enjoying the Mediterranean right?  Wrong.  Paul Tudor Jones, a famous Wall St trader, accepts and decides to speak on the topic of “failure.”  Don’t be put off by the 13 pages, it reads in probably 5-10 minutes thanks to the size 25 font.  Hit the “toggle fullscreen” in the upper right of the box below.

Paul Tudor Jones – Failure Speech June 2009

Originally posted by The Investment Linebacker here.  I stumbled on Paul Kedrosky’s repost here.