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The Aggressive Conservative Investor Paperback – November 4, 2005

3.3 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover


"The Aggressive Conservative Investor will never go out of date. Regulation, disclosure, and other things may change, but the general approach and mindset to successful investing are timeless. Read this book and you will learn the rudiments of 'safe and cheap' investing. An essential read for every amateur and professional investor."
—Stan Garstka, Deputy Dean & Professor in the Practice of Faculty & Management, Yale School of Management

"Security analysis toward both better odds and higher long-term payoff: A readable, authoritative guide."
—Professor Bill Baumol, New York University

"In reading this book, one is struck by the simplicity of the ideas and the dependence of the investor on his own understandings of reality as opposed to the myths on the street. The updated version of this 1979 classic incorporates all the modern financial engineering that has occurred as a product of the late 20th century, and the new methodologies refine your abilities to measure risk but don't change the fundamentals of value. The updated version of The Aggressive Conservative Investor is very much a value-added proposition."
—Sam Zell, Chairman, Equity Group Investment LLC

"I concur with those people who regard Marty Whitman as the 'Dean of Value Investing.' This book is a must-read for everyone interested in understanding the art of investing."
—Melvin T. Stith, Dean, Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University

About the Author

Martin J. Whitman (New York, NY) is chairman, chief executive officer, and co-chief investment officer of Third Avenue Management LLC, and also manages the Third Avenue Value Fund. Mr. Whitman is chairman and CEO of M.J. Whitman, Inc., a New York-based full-service broker-dealer and serves as CEO of Danielson Holding Corporation, a Chicago-based insurance holding and trust company.  Mr. Whitman received a bachelor of science from the School of Management and a master's degree in economics from the New School for Social Research. He is a chartered financial analyst. 

Martin Shubik (Branford, CT) is the Seymour H. Knox Professor of Mathematical Institutional Economics at Yale University. He received his B.A. and M.S. degrees in Mathematics and Political Economy from the University of Toronto, and his Ph.D. in Economics from Princeton University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 486 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (November 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471768057
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471768050
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #296,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book accomplishes two quite different things, both of which should be of use to the committed investor. First of all, it sets forth an investment philosophy in great detail. Second, it shows investors how to analyze securities themselves. In both those respects, it is on a par with "Securities Analysis" by Graham and Dodd (also highly recommended - I have also reviewed that book), although it is a much easier read.

In setting forth an investment philosophy, the book compares well with "Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits" by Phil Fisher and "The Intelligent Investor" by Benjamen Graham (both recommended). Whereas Fisher emphasized growth companies and management analysis and Graham emphasized earnings, Whitman and Shubik emphasize low price/book ratios. They support their position quite ably with examples and , where available, studies.

The Aggressive Conservative Investor also contains a good bit of information about securities analysis. While it is not as in-depth as "Security Analysis" (the Graham and Dodd classic), the chapters on financial accounting and GAAP are a must read, particularly since the book convincingly demonstrates that the utility of financial statements will differ depending upon the position of the person reviewing them.

Whitman and Shubik are most certainly value investors who focus on analyzing a particular company (as compared to the market as a whole, interest rate trends, etc.), although they also cover "asset conversion investing," which may involve investing in distressed companies. They make an excellent argument that, in many cases, companies with unencumbered assets may make excellent investments.
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Format: Paperback
After reading this book years ago, I was interested in reading it again for the new release. Though it is not really an updated main text version, it does have a new forward by Eugene Isenberg (current Chairman of Nabors Industries) and new introduction by the original authors of Martin Whitman and Martin Shubik. Irrespective, it was still an enlightening experience to go over the material again. Since the original printed edition, I believe Mr. Whitman's record speaks for itself, in that the "safe and cheap" methods espoused originally in The Aggressive Conservative Investor are good foundations to start, or extend, your investment education in what the authors call "the outside passive investor".

However, as some other reviewers have pointed out, this book is not your average investor book structured for easy reading with quick formulas. The book is for the more serious investor as its authors clearly state. For example, "In presenting our position, considerable space is devoted to describing the real world faced by both outsiders and insiders." Their point is that in understanding the viewpoints of both the insider, whether corporate management, the banker and/or financier, the directors, or the short-term trader, or that of the outside passive investor will help you along your way in understanding what may be happening in the market and why. Why? - because of the interested parties perspectives as they may temporarily have leverage over the other.

Though the book is a little more rough sailing because of this background perspective - to assist the future reader - (after reading the introduction) one may first want to start in Section 5 <Tools of Security Analysis>, then go back to the beginning and dig in a little more.
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Format: Hardcover
Marty Whitman is a master value investor who has been successful for 3 decades, though recently becoming known to the masses through his Third Avenue family of mutual funds. Anyone who has read some of his shareholder letters will recognize some of the concepts in the book, but they are presented in detail. This book teaches you to understand how "control" investors think, and to then learn how to evaluate annual and quarterly statements in a new light. Whitman is more than a value investor, of course, he is a vulture investor and proud of it. Though this book is as fresh today as it was in 1979, we await his new book eagerly for more wisdom from the master. Marty Whitman's approach is as different from Ben graham's as the Rolling Stones were from the Beatles! Both early rock bands from England, but clearly touched responsive chords in very different ways...If you can find this book, BUY IT!
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Format: Paperback
I am a fan of value investing in all of its different variations, and so when I run across a book on the topic, particularly from a skilled practitioner, I buy it. I'll do more book reviews on value investing, but one of the first that I wanted to do was Value Investing, by Marty Whitman.

So, I start looking around for my copy, and I can't find it. Arrrgh, I can guess what happened. I lent it out, I can't remember who I lent it to, but the borrower never gave it back to me. Annoyed at myself, I do notice a book that was just as good, The Aggressive Conservative Investor, by Marty Whitman and Martin Shubik. Even better, it is back in print, after being out of print for 20+ years.

So, what's so great about the book? (Most of this applies to both books.) Marty Whitman has a strong "What can go wrong" approach. He realizes that he, and most other investors, will be outside passive minority investors. We only ride on the bus. The inside active control investors drive the bus, and if we are going to make money with reasonable safety, we have to understand the motives of those that control the companies. They benefit somewhat disproportionately from control. They receive wages and benefits that other shareholders do not receive, can gain cheap outside financing, and limit tax exposures, in addition to other benefits.

Like me, Whitman doesn't care much for modern portfolio theory. More notable for a value investor, he has a few criticisms for the traditional "Graham-and-Dodd" type of value investing.

* Typically, it works best for "going concern" situations, and not situations where activism could be necessary to unlock value. (Though, Graham did do things like that in his career; he just didn't try to teach amateurs about it.
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