Book Review: The Outsiders By William Thorndike Jr.

Ian Cassel Blog, Book Reviews Leave a Comment

If you never picked up a book and only got information through financial media outlets you would think the best CEO’s ever were Jack Welch, Donald Trump, Mark Cuban, and a few others that love media attention. I’ve always been obsessed with reading business biographies, especially on those CEO’s that are rarely interviewed on CNBC. Often times these less visible CEO’s have track records far greater than their counterparts. I want to learn how they grew their companies and built shareholder value.

The Outsiders is a great book that looks at eight CEO’s who produced above average returns for shareholders over the long term. In most cases these CEO’s were not attention junkies and were not only great capital allocators but also time allocators. Over 29 years Tom Murphy of Capital Cities produced a 19.9% compounded annual return.  Over 27 years Henry Singleton of Teledyne produced a 20.4% compounded annual return. Over 17 years Nick Chabraja of General Dynamics produced a 23.3% compounded annual return. Over 46 years (to 2011) Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway produced 20.7% compounded annual returns for shareholders.

These CEO’s as well as four others in the book were not your cookie cutter capital allocators and did not fit the mold of most business books you read today. Every one of the CEO’s was a first time CEO (no past history of success) and more than half had very little industry experience before taking over as CEO. I found these two things very interesting especially has it relates to microcap investing. So often I’m trying to find great management in microcap, which can be difficult if there is no prior resume. In all instances the Outsider CEO’s led decentralized organizations empowering others to make decisions and they were great capital allocators.

Outsider CEO’s ran high cash flowing businesses, which allowed them to take on debt (few ever issued equity) to make the strategic acquisition or to buy back stock when it was historically cheap. All but one of the eight companies bought back 30%+ of outstanding shares over a period of time. Some took on debt to buy back shares at depressed levels. For those that did use equity to make acquisitions they always knew when to do it (when the stock was expensive).

There are many more takeaways from the book, but you’ll just have to read it. I found the book very easy to read and in many cases reinforced management principles I’ve always felt were important. You will enjoy The Outsiders.

You can view the rest of our bookshelf [HERE].

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