Weekly Digest - May 31, 2022
The life of Thomas S. Murphy, The power of index funds, The rise and fall of Cathie Wood, The beauty of enough, Endless uncertainty, Flood protection in Venice, Marcus Aurelius, Ed Thorp, and more...
Thomas S. Murphy (1925 - 2022)
Thomas S. Murphy Built TV Empire With Help From a Pal, Warren Buffett by James R. Hagerty, May 27, 2022. This is my favorite story about Thomas S. Murphy who passed away at the age of 96 on May 25: “He worked for Lever Brothers, a soap company, and in advertising before joining Hudson Valley Broadcasting, which evolved into Capital Cities. The business struggled at first and nearly failed but gradually moved into the black and later maintained exceptionally high profit margins, Mr. Murphy said. He was so determined to hold down costs that he once had the company headquarters building painted only on the sides visible from the road.” (WSJ)
Remembering Disney Legend Tom Murphy, May 25, 2022. “Tom Murphy was unrivaled in our industry, not just for his business achievements, but for his impeccable ethics, his unwavering kindness and his boundless generosity,” said Robert A. Iger, former CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “He was a deeply principled man, setting and demanding high standards, always living up to them, and never compromising ethics in the service of business… To me, he was more than a mentor. He was a father figure, placing trust in me, instilling confidence, exhorting innovation, being accessible, and just as capable at commiserating failures as he was at cheering on successes. I will never cease to appreciate his friendship and his goodness.” (The Walt Disney Company)
Thomas Murphy Embodied the Difference Between Good and Remarkable by John Tamny, May 29, 2022. “Notable about Murphy’s purchase is that included in ABC’s properties was ESPN. Looked at today, the acquisition was a no-brainer for ESPN alone. Except that the ESPN of 1984 wasn’t anything like what it became. It had nearly gone bankrupt just a few years before, and likely would have if not for a $10 million capital infusion care of John Paul Getty’s heirs. Needless to say, the ESPN of 1984 couldn’t claim broadcasting rights to the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and entities like it. It was a known, but was far from reaching greatness.” (Forbes)
Business Lessons from Tom Murphy, April 8, 2022. I wrote this article about Tom Murphy shortly after he resigned from the board of Berkshire Hathaway earlier this year. “We can learn a great deal about business and capital allocation by studying Tom Murphy’s long and successful career in broadcasting which culminated in the sale of Capital Cities/ABC to the Walt Disney Company in 1996. Over the years, I have read about Mr. Murphy from time to time, but I never attempted to form a composite picture. Let’s take a look at Tom Murphy’s long career and then examine his relationship with Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway.” (Rational Reflections)
Tom Murphy Interview with Charlie Rose, August 4, 1995. “This is an American story. A young man without great wealth gets a great education, and he starts at the bottom with a little company, a UHF television station. He finds a partner and together they build, brick by brick, a big company. Then they find another party, a financial genius, one of the world's richer men. Then they buy a network and make it better. The stock continues to appreciate and split and appreciate. They are tough, but they are gentlemen. And one day they get taken over by an even bigger company so they can do their thing on the global stage.” (CharlieRose.com)
The Rise and Fall of Wall Street’s Most Controversial Investor by Jen Wieczner, May 26, 2022. This is an interesting profile of Cathie Wood who keeps doubling down as her investment strategy collapses. Last week, she appeared to suggest that artificial intelligence could boost GDP growth to 30-50% per year. “Wood’s collapse has started to seem emblematic, not just of the current bear market in tech, but of the excesses that fed into what now appears to be a pandemic bubble. A professional who espoused the “to-the-moon” mentality of many amateurs, Wood may now be unintentionally teaching them a valuable lesson: Stocks (and cryptocurrencies) do, in fact, go down, too.” (New York Magazine)
BlackRock, Vanguard and other index-fund giants are playing politics with proxy votes by Lawrence Cunningham, May 27, 2022. “The index fund industry enables millions of investors to get market returns with low risk at little cost. But the bargain investors signed onto did not envision fund managers using their power to express political preferences. To preserve the bargain, the voting power of those managers must be eliminated. Thankfully, the industry as well as Congress are paving the way for innovative solutions to protect investors, and perhaps save the industry from itself.” (MarketWatch)
Endless Uncertainty by Morgan Housel, May 25, 2022. “Uncertainty hasn’t gone up this year; complacency has come down. People are more aware that the future could go any way, that what’s prosperous today can evaporate tomorrow, and that predictions that seemed assured a few months ago can look crazy today. That’s always been the case. But now we’re keenly aware of it.” (Collaborative Fund)
The Market Has No Memory. Should We? by Frederik Gieschen, May 29, 2022. “We learn by studying history and our own mistakes and actions. But if we hold on to our memories too tightly, we close ourselves off from the present. We view new situations through an aging and outdated prism. In your quest for knowledge and better understanding, don’t be afraid to forget.” (Insecurity Analysis)
The Beauty of Enough: How to fight back against the perpetual desire for more by Sahil Bloom, May 25, 2022. “My son was born one week ago—it feels like one of those fabled weeks where decades happen. I spent the first three decades of my life trying to find the meaning and purpose of all of this—then one week, it all came into view. On Monday morning, I was with him in bed and had this profound sensation: For the first time in my life, I have enough.” (The Curiosity Chronicle)
Can an $8B dam save Venice? by Trung T. Phan, May 28, 2022. This is an interesting account of a complex system of dams designed to protect Venice from catastrophic flooding. Venice is one of those cities that has to be directly experienced to be understood. I was fortunate to stay in the city for a few days in 2015. Perhaps the lessons learned from this flood protection project could help low lying cities in the United States such as Miami and New Orleans deal with rising sea levels. (SatPost)
DNA of Pompeii Man Killed During Vesuvius Eruption Yields Its Secrets Almost 2,000 Years Later by Aylin Woodward, May 26, 2022. “When Italy’s Mount Vesuvius erupted violently in A.D. 79, a cloud of superheated ash killed thousands in and around the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum—including a middle-aged man who perished in an instant as he rested on a chaise lounge inside a Pompeian home. Now, an international team of scientists has fully sequenced the man’s DNA...” (WSJ)
20 Things You Didn’t Know About Marcus Aurelius by Ryan Holiday, May 25, 2022. “It is amazing Meditations, year after year and read after read, feels both incredibly timely and incredibly timeless (there’s a reason the book has endured now for almost twenty centuries). It’s amazing that a person so famous—known to millions in his own lifetime and subject to countless books and articles and movies—could still be giving off new secrets, but indeed that’s what he’s doing.” (RyanHoliday.net)
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Edward O. Thorp, A Man for All Markets
I only have one podcast to share this week, but it is absolutely terrific. You can listen to Tim Ferris interview Ed Thorp via podcast, but there is also a YouTube video, shown below, that I recommend watching. It’s hard to believe that Ed Thorp will turn ninety years old this August. He appears to be much younger.
Arlington National Cemetery — Memorial Day 2022
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