Hedge fund owner/manager Fearon contrasts the methods of Wall Street experts and gurus, and the self-deception and illusions of many business managers, with his own ability to profit from such vulnerabilities.
The author has ridden the roller coaster of finance and investment since the collapse of the Texas oil patch in the 1980s. Along the way, he became a successful investor by shorting the stock of companies destined to fail, and he founded his own hedge fund in 1991 and continues to run it. Fearon passed through a succession of investing styles as he worked to understand how self-delusions, obsessions and manias obstruct business success. Insights assimilated from his own failures—like the gumbo restaurant he located amid a non-Southern, spicy food–eating demographic, among others—were fuel for his subsequent successes. Number-crunching analysis, writes the author, doesn't function on its own, and he includes stories and incidents derived from thousands of interviews conducted with the leaders of companies to illustrate the methods that have worked for him. The author uses Ron Johnson, who was put in charge of J.C. Penney, as an example. He lost $1 billion eliminating popular coupon programs, replacing discount products with upscale goods and dropping the use of Spanish in states like Texas. Johnson wanted to build a company where he and his friends could shop, but J.C. Penney's customer base refused to go along. During his research, site visits and interviews helped Fearon probe beneath the rationalizations for failure. When managers blame external factors and refuse to consider the possibility of internal problems, it’s another sure sign of trouble. Thus, when earnings are falling or nonexistent and liabilities are increasing, bankruptcy is at hand. The author also discusses successful investments, like International Game Technology which can make more money more quickly than the best shorts.
Sharp insights into human fallibility as a potential source of moneymaking opportunity.