Good Reading -- June 2016
Facts and Figures
The term "non-GAAP" appeared in 58% of proxy filings for S&P 500 companies reporting so far in 2016, up from 27% of those same S&P 500 constituents five years ago. (Source: Audit Analytics)
Spinoffs worth a combined $251 billion were completed globally in 2015, up roughly 2x from 2014 and from the average of the post-GFC years.
The S&P Guggenheim Spin-off ETF, which tracks the performance of spinoffs, is down 17% in the last 12 months. (Source: WSJ, Dealogic, S&P/USA Today)
The Buffett Essay Symposium: A 20th Anniversary Annotated Transcript -- This little book, commemorating the 1996 symposium that launched the Buffett essay book(s), is a gem. It is amazing how much the world has changed but how little the principles have changed. Highly recommended. (And thanks to the editor for sending me a copy!)
Warren Buffett's Ground Rules: Words of Wisdom from the Partnership Letters of the World's Greatest Investor -- This book by Jeremy Miller is a worthwhile read, as you'd expect from a book that is primarily original-source material from Buffett himself. It is a tall order to add a sprinkling of commentary and analysis, but the author does a nice job of collating Buffett's thoughts by topic. Beyond some (fairly minor) mistakes/typos I thought the book did a good job of capturing the key thoughts in the original letters.
Jim Chanos on FT podcast (transcript) -- This interview is loaded with interesting commentary.
Internet Trends 2016 -- Mary Meeker is not without controversy, including most recently her board seat at Lending Club. But she's still putting out her annual study of all things digital/media/Internet and it's packed with interesting data as usual. A short recap from a Washington Post writer is here and here.
Jim Collins interviews Jorge Paulo Lemann -- This is a long video but it features a good discussion on a variety of topics. And if that's not interesting enough, Gisele Bundchen makes an appearance around the 1-hour mark. She discusses the reasons for her enormous success and multifaceted career.
The Secret Culprit in the Theranos Mess -- Since the original round of articles on Theranos garnered almost as much interest as the subsequent mess, this article looking at the journalistic process is well worth some consideration. (On a separate note, the WSJ should win a lot of awards for its work on this story.) Forbes also cut its calculation of Holmes's net worth to zero from $4.5 billion last year.
The Lies Busy People Tell Themselves -- "With four kids and a full-time job, time is precious. But it's also plentiful." After keeping a time log for one year, the author found that "life was not quite as hectic as I'd thought." She confirms studies that show "that professionals tend to overestimate work hours; we remember our busiest weeks as typical. This is partly because negative experiences stand out...and party because we all like to see ourselves as hard-working. One study...found that people estimating 75-plus hour workweeks were off, on average, by about 25 hours."
John Malone Talks TV Biz, Presidential Politics and His TCI Regret in Candid Q&A -- Plenty of insights in this interview.
On his proudest achievement: “After four years of really trying, I got my wife to say yes. It took me four years and that was four years of abstention, by the way. So it was really meaningful.”
On sage advice he received from one of his first bosses: “Always analyze the downside and structure everything so that you live to fight another day.”
On his preternatural focus on minimizing tax bills: “The government is your partner. They just don’t get to go to all your meetings. In the end, you can invest the money better than they can.”
On his greatest disappointment: “I let business take too large a part of my life for a period in my life and probably neglected the kids more than I should have.”
On the need for greater scale in traditional media companies: “We no longer can think of scale being sufficient if it’s just the U.S. When Mark Zuckerberg talks about a billion simultaneous daily users — those are big numbers.”
On the growth of original series production: “It’s like a children’s soccer match. Everybody in the industry is chasing the soccer ball instead of holding their position.”
On the fate of the cable bundle: “I don’t think the bundle will break down by itself. I think other bundles will build up. … The big bundle only breaks down if sports breaks down. That’s really the muscle. Sports is the glue that holds the bundle together. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
On his personal fortune (estimated by Forbes at $6.4 billion): “I couldn’t spend the money I’ve made if I lived 10 lifetimes. I’m going to give it away.”
Successful? You've Already Won the Lottery -- A useful reminder about the role of randomness in everyday life. I'd also recommend the author's recent conversation on Russ Robert's excellent podcast, Econ Talk.