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Irving Kahn RIP


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He died yesterday.

109 years young.



Irving Kahn was born in Manhattan on December 19 1905, the son of Russian immigrants. After school in the Bronx, Kahn enrolled at City College but dropped out after two years to support his parents, taking a job as a “runner”, or trading assistant, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

He became friends with Benjamin Graham, later the author of The Intelligent Investor, the bible of value investing. They would ride the subway together in the evenings to Columbia University where Kahn worked — often for free — as his mentor’s assistant. Hanging around campus was also a way to spend time with Ruth Perl, a psychology student, whom he married in 1931.

Kahn made his first trade in June 1929, borrowing from his brother-in-law to bet on a fall in the price of shares in the high-flying Magma Copper. When the market crashed just months later, he doubled his money.

In 1938 he borrowed again to buy his first house, in the Belle Harbor district of Queens, after banks — still piled high with foreclosures — denied him a mortgage. This time the source was uncle Harry, whose business had built the foundations for the Chrysler Building.

For the next few decades he bounced around brokerages, doing well through “time-arb” strategies, exploiting pricing differences between the same stocks traded in New York and London, and later trying something similar with companies undergoing mergers. In 1978 he struck out on his own, employing Thomas and his brother Alan to pursue the Graham goal of conservative, research-driven stock picking. (Kahn gave Thomas the middle name Graham — just as Warren Buffett, another disciple, did for his second son.)

In the month of Kahn’s 100th birthday he rang the opening bell at the NYSE and was feted at a party at the elite Harmonie Club, attended by mayor Michael Bloomberg.


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