Walter Schloss -- What a Guy

Today brings the news that superinvestor and Buffett friend Walter Schloss is no longer with us.

I admired Walter for many reasons: his devotion to his family, his investing prowess, and his zest for life. His first wife was ill with serious depression for decades and throughout, he cared for her tirelessly. Meanwhile, he worked in a tiny closet-sized office at Tweedy Brown, and used essentially nothing but pencils, paper, and Value Line to produce some of the best investing results in history. Later his son Edwin joined him in the business, but they never deviated from the style that made him a success, which his friends referred to as mainly buying "buggy-whip manufacturers," moribund companies that were trading for less than their carcasses would be worth.

As for the zest, there is a photo in The Snowball of Walter dancing at his 90th birthday party. He was really cutting the rug, not just doing a pose for the camera, and you can tell how much fun he was having and what a lively person he was from that picture. That night he told me how much he enjoyed still being able to play tennis at his age. He had recently remarried and was fully involved in life.

The first time I ever spoke to Walter was several years earlier, in a phone interview. Warren had mentioned that Walter's political views were a "little more right wing" than Buffett's own. When we got on the phone, Walter immediately wanted let me know he just could not understand how Warren could believe the things he did about taxes. While Warren would always take his calls, Walter had found that if the subject turned to politics they tended to end quickly. So Walter figured that I was a possible vehicle to get his views through to Warren, and he made that very clear. My first interview transcript with Walter ended up consisting about 75% of a message to Warren about his wrong-headedness on taxes. I must say that Warren took it well.

That was my introduction to the dynamic among the insiders in the Buffett Group. Walter was one of the earlier interviews, and as it turned out, only a prelude to a series of people who wanted to use part of their interviews to send the same message. But Walter was more outspoken than most. It seems appropriate that the news of his death would come on President's Day.

The most notable thing I remember about Walter, though, was not his politics; it was his generosity. It was he who helped me really understand what life was like working at Graham-Newman. He also contributed greatly to the portrait of Warren as a young investor. Walter gave me an abundance of information about Ben Graham, and later donated his papers to Columbia University. These are only examples, and I'm sure that many other people have stories of how open-hearted this man was. He will be very much missed.

Here's a good Bloomberg story on his passing.

Walter Schloss' Memoirs

I'm a huge fan of Walter Schloss too, really amazing person.

He published an autobiography soon after he retired (I remember seeing references to it in Snowball) and I tracked a copy down and thoroughly enjoyed it.

They are hard to obtain, I see one for sale on eBay now and thought your readers may want to know....

http://www.ebay.com/itm/The-Memoirs-of-Walter-J-Schloss-Warren-Buffetts-...

People run around trying to

People run around trying to be the next Buffett. But if the AVERAGE person really wanted to get ahead in the market they would study Walter Schloss. He put together a first rate record with common sense, being willing to buy straw hats in January and his trusty Value Line guide.

On top of that Mr Schloss was a better person than investor. And that is saying alot.

Interesting to hear that

Interesting to hear that Walter was the one who helped you understand what was like working at Graham-Newman.
It doesnt sound like Warren helped your job much aside from letting you research his papers and speak freely to his friends and family (as well as letting you stay around him while he worked).
What do you wish that Warren had done more to help you on the book?

REPLY: Perhaps this may help. Warren helped *enormously* on the Graham-Newman section. But Walter worked there longer, was less mesmerized by Ben Graham, and also was a good observer of Warren. He deserves my thanks and credit for his very significant contribution.

Tribute

Schloss was the embodiment of the triumph of simple principles over the nonsense of Wall Street.

I never met Walter Schloss - I could only admire him from afar. Now, he is a legend in my memory.

At the start of my investing journey, I was inspired by Buffett's portrayal of him in the 2006 letter - how he used simple statistical methods learned from Graham and also in the 1984 Superinvestors speech - how he just stuck to securities selling for less than their worth to a private owner.

I admired him for sticking to what he was comfortable with than being influenced by criticisms or jokes (overly diversified, noah, buggy whip companies etc.) or even following Buffett's modified approach.

I particularly enjoyed one line from a letter Buffett sent to his friends in 1994 - " ... he (Schloss) accomplishes this feat by rummaging among the cigar butts on the floor of capitalism. It's quite a 38 year record, a tribute to Ben as a teacher, Walter as a student, and to the advantage of a free puff.".

Most of all, I'm thankful to him for his generosity with his invaluable experience, knowledge, time etc. speaking to journalists and also to students - I've gained immensely from it - thanks Walter Schloss!

Love him!

I just love Walter Schloss and everything that he did!

Post new comment

If you wish to make a comment, please enter your valid email address. A verification message will be sent to your address to ensure it is real. Comments from people with unverified email addresses will not be published. Thanks for your cooperation.
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em><i> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><img><p><h1><h2><h3><h4><form><textarea><input>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Links to specified hosts will have a rel="nofollow" added to them.

  • You may use <swf file="song.mp3"> to display Flash files inline

More information about formatting options

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.