By Andrew Leckey

While basketball players may aspire to "be like Mike," as in NBA great Michael Jordan, investors have a variety of role models to choose from.

Finding one that suits their personality is not easy, so it makes sense to study as many as possible.

The best-known names excel in common sense and patience.

"Peter Lynch, who ran Fidelity's Magellan Fund, became a household name and would be at the top of my list of famous investors," said David Kudla, CEO and chief investment strategist for Mainstay Capital Management LLC, Grand Blanc, Mich. "He was a proponent of investing in what you know, popularizing the idea of having local knowledge."

Popular Lynch books "One Up On Wall Street" and "Beating the Street," both co-authored with John Rothchild, helped educate average investors. Under Lynch's management, the Magellan Fund grew from $20 million in assets in 1977 to $18 billion when he retired in 1990. His principles of investing in what you know and remaining fully invested apply today and will apply tomorrow, Kudla said.

It is impossible to overlook one of the world's richest investors, whose goal is to never lose money, no matter what the market is doing.

"Warren Buffett is the classic deep value investor who focuses on operating margins and prefers highly recognizable company names," said Barry Ritholtz, CEO of FusionIQ in New York. "He likes to pick up dollar bills when they only cost him 75 cents."

For example, Buffett realizes that anyone can enter the beverage business but that there is only one Coca-Cola Co. His style is patterned after Benjamin Graham, the late American economist and value investor known for the book "Security Analysis." While that strategy may have its ups and downs along the way, it still holds up, Ritholtz said.

Global investing once seemed like a pipe dream before it became all the rage in this century.

"John Templeton comes to mind when you think of the famous investors because he used a deep value strategy in all of his investing decisions," said Tom Forester, portfolio manager of Forester Value Fund, Lake Forest, Ill. "He was very early into Japan and other countries, which turned out to be a great move for him and helped his long-term success."

Templeton and his investors benefited from his adventuresome spirit throughout his family of global mutual funds. He studied companies carefully and used fundamental analysis to take profits when values became too lofty.

What sets famous investors apart? There are some common traits:

-- They are fully aware of risk. Forester thinks value investors do better than growth investors in the long run because they acknowledge that risk comes "in different flavors." Growth investors sometimes don't care what they pay for a stock, so long as it is growing and has good prospects. The rule of thumb is to always watch what you pay, whatever your philosophy may be.

-- Strong stomachs permit them to adhere to long-term strategies. It takes a while for some investments to work out, and not everyone has patience, Forester noted. The most successful investors do not invest for immediate gratification and don't need everyone around them to agree with what they are doing. They like going against the grain because they know how to avoid splinters.

-- They don't fall into easy traps. A stock can be classically undervalued and look attractive, yet stay undervalued for months or even years, warned Kudla. That's OK if it has a good story behind it or there are catalysts for some short-term movement. However, just buying a stock because it is undervalued and because you like undervalued stocks can be a big mistake, he said.

-- They are their own people. Lynch bought for a longer-term horizon, but he was also a money manager and fund manager who had to change positions from time to time, Kudla pointed out. However, Buffett buys investments for decades or "almost forever," he said. Buffett knows his own mind and is loyal to his logic. Forester places Lynch, who benefited from investing at a time of low stock valuations, in the growth investor category.

-- They give back to society. Star investors represent the most active of philanthropists, giving time and money to causes that they consider worthwhile.

Of course, hard work and a thick skin are other common characteristics of the stars.

"Jim Simons of hedge fund firm Renaissance Technologies has put up an excellent track record for decades, and, while no one knows exactly what his 'secret sauce' is, he is quantitatively driven and a mathematician," said Ritholtz. "He's an enormous numbers cruncher looking for things to go out of whack in his quantitative models, a method that won't ever go away."

Some travel to the beat of different drummers. Hedge fund manager George Soros gained his reputation as a bold, successful speculator over decades, igniting controversy in the process, with some governments accusing him of sinking their currencies with his strategies, said Kudla.

"Jeremy Grantham of GMO (Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo and Co.) asset management is both a valuation and a macro-economic guy who understands how markets work and how valuations work," concluded Forester. "He did an excellent job of detecting the 2008 downdraft before it started."


Available at

The Triumph of Value Investing: Smart Money Tactics for the Postrecession Era

The Seven Deadly Sins of Investing: How to Conquer Your Worst Impulses and Save Your Financial Future

Generation Earn: The Young Professional's Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back

What Investors Really Want: Know What Drives Investor Behavior and Make Smarter Financial Decisions


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