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Gurdon Wattles? Any Info Out There?


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This investor was mentioned in Alice Schroeder's "The Snowball" as a person whose investing style Buffett cloned in the early years.  She described it as Russian nesting dolls (gain control of a company that's undervalued, use that to buy control of another company that's undervalued, and use that for another company etc, like a pyramid).  Does anyone have any resources on him?

 

I read "The Autobiography of Gurdon Wallace Wattles" and it was damn near useless, since it was about his life, but not much reference to his investing ideas. (e.g. paraphasing "our bank was doing well so we decided to open another one".). 

 

Since the Oracle had to have found out about him from somewhere, what were his source materials?  Does anyone know of any books or magazine articles that reference him and what he did? 

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Good question.  Interested in responses. 

 

I will say that Wattles involvement in one proxy fight with Thomas Mellon Evans (I think) was discussed in The White Sharks of Wall Street (I posted a little about it/how I found the book somewhere on my site). 

 

I Wattles role was when Evans was trying to take over the Crane Co.  I will try and go look at the footnotes for that section at some point and see if there are any articles cited.  I think there was some brief background discussion of Wattles.  He was acting as the "white knight" for Crane management, initially, if memory serves.

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Since Wattles was from Omaha it is likely that Warren's Father was aware of his career and stories, as well as being members of civic groups and clubs for prominent Omahans - even if they were not contemporaries.  Also, his career would have been covered in the local newspapers.

 

My Sister-in-Law had her wedding at the Wattles Mansion in Los Angeles.  I was trying to remember why that name sounded familiar and I suppose it is from the Snowball mention.

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This investor was mentioned in Alice Schroeder's "The Snowball" as a person whose investing style Buffett cloned in the early years.  She described it as Russian nesting dolls (gain control of a company that's undervalued, use that to buy control of another company that's undervalued, and use that for another company etc, like a pyramid).  Does anyone have any resources on him?

 

I read "The Autobiography of Gurdon Wallace Wattles" and it was damn near useless, since it was about his life, but not much reference to his investing ideas. (e.g. paraphasing "our bank was doing well so we decided to open another one".). 

 

Since the Oracle had to have found out about him from somewhere, what were his source materials?  Does anyone know of any books or magazine articles that reference him and what he did?

 

Confusingly, there area a few successful businessmen named Gurdon W. Wattles.

 

Gurdon Wallaces Wattles (1855-1932), who you are referring to, was a leading Omaha businessman in the early 20th century, but not the man cited in The Snowball.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gurdon_Wattles

 

Gurdon Weller Wattles (1902-2004), who The Snowball refers to, was a very successful investment banker and active investor.

http://www.newjerseyhills.com/gurdon-weller-wattles-was-leading-investment-banker/article_0e8a9982-08ff-53c2-b321-b0298abcfc97.html

 

To further add to it, both appear to have sons also named Gurdon Wattles.

 

My guess is that Buffett ran across Wattles because Wattles was a very smart investor doing enterprising things and the companies he was involved in were cheap due to the complexity and thus Buffett ran across them when poking around.  I would bet Ben Graham was aware of him from NYC investing circles.

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Interesting. I think my guy was notable for "pyramiding companies" (i.e., get control of A which then gets control of B and so on) which is what Tom Evans and ultimately Buffett did back in the day (eventually triggering the SEC to kick the tires on his operation).

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I had no idea there were 2 Gurdon W Wattles.  Nice catch! 

 

FWIW, I did find something on the Omaha Wattles in a book on the history of Omaha.  Basically, someone accusing him of being dishonest and not paying his debts.  Also, when he got elected to a political position where he approved and hired teachers that he "debauched" several of them and got one pregnant. 

 

At least I know now which of the four Gurdon Wattles I should be focusing on!

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  • 2 years later...

Sorry for necro thread.  I was about to reply to Neckar capital on Twitter about this guy and remembered this thread. 

 

Just wanted to add there are a few details about Buffett's view on the Wattles in question (unsurprisingly, you guys are right it's the Jersey guy as far as I can tell) in some of the early Forbes/Fortune interviews (was just "leafing" through those incident to this message to Nekar cap)...the 1969 interview with Forbes quotes WEB talking about the Wattles of american manufacturing  (the jersey guy).  Valuewalk has a pdf of some of the articles available for download in his site.  I tweeted a link.

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