[Latest update: 09/05/2017, please go to the bottom to see new additions]
Value Investors Club (VIC), founded by the legendary investor Joel Greenblatt, is an anonymous elite value investing club whose admission is said to be very selective. According to John Petry, the co-founder of the club, there’s “a lot of very well known money managers” and “very, very successful hedge fund managers” who all use the site. However, from traits left by these “anonymous” users, we may be able to tell these well known and successful investors. I firstly carried out some of these researches purely out of my curiosity, but later found identifying these great investors helps me focus on quality ideas and discussions. Sometime I cannot tell who exactly they are, but certainly can tell the ideas were from some greatest minds. By all means, these guys’ writings are great stuff to read regardless who’s behind.
To summarize, the traits I’m looking for are:
- Long tenure, membership started the earlier the better. Remember back then there was 250 total members limit of the club. When the club was initially setup, you would expect Greenblatt to send out invites to his counterparts and friends (who are usually renowned investors) to form a sizable group.
- “Privilege” of not following club rules. For example, if a user doesn’t post at least 2 ideas annually but still keeps its membership, it is highly likely some well established investors who don’t need to follow the rules to prove his/her qualifications. I call it a VIP account.
- Big picture qualitative thesis. We all know investing is a numbers job, you have to crunch accounting numbers and discount cash flows. (I got that, that’s why CFA exam needs a calculator.) But to be a great investor, one needs much more than savvy with numbers. I found some of these qualitative thesis contains great deal of knowledge about the business, executive strategies and behavioral finance etc. Additionally, qualitative stuff can be more fun to read compared to hard and cold numbers and I found it’s a delight to read these users’ postings. After all, a great investor usually is a great writer and story teller.
Below are what I found thus far. It’s going to be a cumulative effort, as I come across and identify more good ones, I will come back to add them.
wrt233 – Whitney Tilson
member since 02/2001, but only had one idea (short of LUMBER LIQUIDATORS). This is a easy “guess” because he basically told you that. Obviously, Tilson wants more publicity because he wants more recognition for his short ideas.
user profile page below, and you can see his comment on the World Acceptance long idea with another link directly to his website.
david101 – David Ellison?
Member since 09/2000 and has been active. This user had a strong a financial sector focus, with almost all ideas being financial stocks, specifically small banks. It fits pretty well to David Ellison who’s a veteran financial sector investor and his view about small regional banks.
ahab931 – Unknown
Member since 06/2006 and had only 2 ideas. This member caught my eye recently because its recent call for Short VRX on July 2015 (great timing!) and also because his big picture writing style. You don’t see a bunch of numbers in this thesis, but the arguments are quite appealing.
torico780 – Unknown
Member since 07/2002, only posted 3 ideas since 2010, however still quite active on the message indicating it has active membership. Obviously, a VIP account. This user had a pretty wide asset classes spectrum, had ideas over distressed sovereign bonds, preferred stocks and did a great job following up on the ideas with updates and final outcomes.
[Updated on 4/5/2016: this user’s Seeking Alpha profile here. Thanks for quoting my post, torico780, look forward to more of your ideas.]
hkup881 – Unknown
Member since 11/2002 and has been quite active, posting 2-3 ideas each year. This user’s ideas are usually short and qualitative, another indicating of a well established investor. Interesting, this user even submitted a options straddle strategy for FXCM INC and it got through… so obviously club rules are not applying to him/her.
/******************** Added on 3/30/2016 *****************/
bowd57 – Unknown
Member since 09/2000, quite active. I came across its post on Nexpoint Residential initially and found this user fits well to the traits I’m looking for. This user even pitched close end funds for a few times and got through. Fun writing style. For example, see this opening lines:
Hi, guys —
No, no — please! Please, everyone! Stop! Please, people, sit down! There is no need to be so effusive in your applause for this low-conviction trade idea that I own in modest size in my personal account!
jm671 – Unknown
Member since 02/2002, didn’t post anything from 2007 to 2013, a VIP account. I came across it when read his post about AdCare Health Systems. It has big picture, qualitative thesis. It focuses on small and micro cap names and sometimes would disclose other position in its messages, which is a bonus for sourcing potential opportunities. Some short calls were quite right on, for example, see below for the Resonant (RESN) short called on Feb 2015.
/************** Added on 4/1/2016 ***************/
Credits go to this post from Corner of Berkshire & Fairfax Message Board. Great reads from some legendary investors.
www.valueinvestorsclub.com/member/nish697/1388– Mohnish Pabrai
www.valueinvestorsclub.com/member/charlie479/1180– Norbert Lou
www.valueinvestorsclub.com/member/michael99/1219– Michael Burry
/************** Added on 9/7/2016 ***************/
tomahawk990 – Seth Klarman? (or someone from Baupost)
Member since 08/2005, a very energy focused user, coinciding with Baupost’s consistent interest in energy sector. I came across it when trying to research on Baupost’s investment in Silver Run Acquisition Corp [SRAQU]. The timing of the post seems to coincide with Baupost’s position building in Q2 2016. It fits my rules of big picture, qualitative thesis. Its thesis also spends a lot of time talking about company’s history, executive/management’s background, operating strategy, etc. which indicates s/he is well connected, as well as his/her investment style (very management quality driven, which I like as well). The result of the SRAQU call thus far below, impressive.
/************** Added on 01/12/2017 ***************/
miser861 – Unknown
Member since 08/2003, I found this user from its recent two pitches of Alphabet [fka Google], which I really like. Very prolific user, with 4 weekly pick award thus far. Its analysis style fits what I was looking for, as mentioned before (qualitative, big picture, etc.). Additionally, the user is very responsive and active in discussion with fellow members. You can learn a lot more if you go through its ideas’ message page.
/************** Added on 06/11/2017 ***************/
hawkeye901 – Anthony Bozza (Lakewood Capital)
Credit goes to a friend who suggested that hawkeye901 might be Anthony Bozza based on the timing of this user’s short post of OPKO Health (on 3/20/2013, link here) and Lakewood’s high profile Sohn Conference short pitch (on 11/21/2013).
What’s more interesting (or confusing) is that Lakewood actually had about 300k shares of long OPK according to its 13F filed for Q3 2013. Whitney Tilson gave a explanation why Lakewood had such perplexing position in a response to a Lakewood’s Seeking Alpha article (link here)
…Allow me to explain what I’m quite certain is really going on (though I have no direct knowledge of this particular situation). With heavily shorted stocks like OPK, it can be very difficult to get the borrow, so if your broker finds you some borrow, it makes sense to take more than you need and then buy the stock to offset this.So, for example, if you wanted to be short 100,000 shares of OPK, you’d get the borrow on 150,000 shares and short them — and also buy 50,000 shares. Then, if you later want to increase the size of your short position, you don’t need to get more borrow (which might be impossible to get at that time) — you simply sell some of the 50,000 shares you own. Easy!
Additionally, I was able to verify a couple long ideas of hawkeye901 (Ingram Micro, Primerica & Intelsat), which all overlapped with Lakewood’s 13F around the same period. Based on these observations, it looks quite possible it is him.
/************** Added on 08/22/2017 ***************/
mimval – Christopher Mittleman (Mittleman Investment Management)
A relative new account (started from April 2016), however didn’t seem to follow 2 ideas/year rule thus far. The first idea submitted on CKEC was a contest winner and both write-ups thus far are solid. The account name itself doesn’t seem to be trying to be anonymous, since “mim” is basically an acronym for Mittleman Investment Management. It also disclosed itself in its Revlon thesis message board by indicating “…Our firm owned 4.3% of the shares outstanding as of 3/31/17…”. Per public records, Mittleman held precisely 4.34% by Q1 2017. A very concentrated hitter if you look at their 13F.
/************** Added on 09/05/2017 ***************/
CFL41 – Connor Leonard (Investors Management Corporation)
A relative new account (started from Nov 2013). The reason I’m sure this account’s identity is the similarity between this VIC post on Zooplus (link) and its pitch deck in public domain (one of John Huber’s post about “reinvestment moat”, link here). Leonard also laid out his investment philosophy in a pubic investor letter (Scribd link here). One of his key tenets called “Benefits All Stakeholders” highly resonates with my version of “Benefit to All Constituents in the Value Chain”.