Standing By The Phone

Every year in early May, there’s no room at the inns of Omaha.  In fact, there’s probably no vacancy for 500 miles.  When Berkshire Hathaway holds its annual meeting and Graham-and-Doddsville festival, talk turns to succession.  Who’s in line to take over for Warren (and Charlie) when it comes to the Berkshire asset pile?  So I’ve routinely made it a point to stay close to the phone — just in case they dial me up.  I may have gone undrafted for yet another year, but at least this conversation with our son made me smile.

My commitment and focus on making sure that Warren and Charlie knew that I was “standing by” the phone waiting for their succession phone call clouded my judgment and left me vulnerable.

“Uh, Dad. You’re aware that you don’t have to stand by any longer. Your cell phone means that you can go golfing and that phone call from Omaha will still reach you.”

(Uncomfortable silence) “Whoa. You’re right. I guess one day we’ll no longer have that land line.”

“Yeah. We’d hope so. Because even that has a wireless handset.”

(Gulp) “Settle down or I’ll talk about party lines again.”

“No, Dad don’t go there. It’s too horrible.”

“Do you really expect us to believe that the phone calls on Green Acres and Petticoat Junction and that operator named Sarah resembled reality?”

“Well, when Oliver Douglass climbed the phone pole … that was comedy.”

“What’s comedy is that we still have a land line.”

“Watch it. We pay for your cell phone. That can change.”

“Sorry, Dad. At least that old-fashioned phone (shown here) had a hand-held microphone.”

“Uh … that was actually held to your ear. You talked into the thing at the top.”

“You have GOT TO BE KIDDING, right? I feel like we’re walking among dinosaurs. I’m going to go sit in the car and turn on the air conditioner and think about what it’d be like to not have it.”

“Sit in your Buick LeSabre. It won’t take quite as much imagination.”

“Good point. Good thing the windows still roll down.”


This week, we continue to build out our perspective on long-term performance relative to the stock market over, in some cases, decades. As a refresher, we’re assuming first name basis with Peter (Lynch), Warren (Buffett & Berkshire), Walter (Schloss) and honoring their long-term achievements. We let Ken Heebner keep his last name because it’s cool … we like to “Heebner” our portfolios.

As expected, the random sampling of rhino funds (red, institutional portfolios) continue to fill in — with the majority now landing close to zero or below, signaling failure to beat the S&P 500 over the periods shown. (“Bill” is Legg Mason Value — famous for his 15-year outperformance winning streak from 1991-2005)

Speaking of winning streaks and “phoning friends” we continue to watch for people (and rhinos) who seem to know what they’re doing. In this case, we cite Eddy Elfenbein ( and his current 5-year winning streak of outperforming the market. Another noteworthy source of reliable ideas is Jim Jubak and and the level of out performance shown here. Both Eddy and Jim are hovering at lofty levels and should be regarded as a source of worthy ideas for future stock studies.

The Challenge Club is no slouch either. Join us [for the monthly webcasts] as we continue this quest/discovery of market out performance that started back in 1999.

Performance excellence 20120514

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