Posted by on July 18, 2017 11:45 pm
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Categories: AIG apple Bear Stearns Bill Miller Bitcoin Bond Business Countrywide Cryptocurrencies Economy federal reserve Finance Hedge fund Institutional Investors Legg Mason Lehman Lehman Brothers money Mutual fund Opportunity Trust recovery US Federal Reserve Value Investing

Former Legg Mason investing guru Bill Miller’s Opportunity Trust is back on top this year thanks to bets on a hodgepodge of stocks including Apple Inc., J.P Morgan Chase & Co. and Restoration Hardware. Just weeks after his Opportunity Trust was named No. 1 among diversified funds with at least $1 billion in assets, Forbes is out with a glowing profile of the 67-year-old value investor. In it, Miller makes a surprising claim – one that, if accurate, could very well help restore his legacy after a spotty string of years. Back in 2014, Miller said he invested 1% of his net worth in bitcoin. Forbes neglected to reveal Miller’s net worth, though it claimed that Miller is looking at a 1,000% return.

Indeed, it looks like Miller is once again having an investing “moment,” finding relief after a decade of returns ranging from lukewarm to disastrous. His winning streak began after Miller last year ended a 35-year relationship with Baltimore’s Legg Mason, buying out the company’s stake in three funds.

Here’s Forbes:

“Indeed, Miller still has a keen eye for change. In 2014, he put 1% of his net worth into Bitcoin, judging that the digital currency’s potential for large-scale economic disruption (see Forbes’ cover story on the coin revolution) outweighed the risk of a total loss. He’s up nearly tenfold, and Bitcoin is now a top holding of his hedge fund.”

Miller’s Opportunity fund, a mutual fund that doesn’t hold any bitcoin, is also having a stellar year thanks in large part to Miller’s purchase of Apple call options with a strike price of $100. Miller also has a large stake in Amazon that has performed well this year. Miller told Forbes he expects the e-commerce giant’s market cap to rise five- or sixfold within a decade. A handful of the fund’s top-performing picks are detailed in this chart:

Of course, there’s a reason why Miller can take risks like betting on bitcoin: He’s the largest investor in each of his funs, leaving him free to think “big thoughts,” according to Forbes.

“…[This] past February, Miller completed the buyout of a partnership he had formed with Legg Mason to manage the Opportunity Trust and a small income fund. His family-owned Miller Value Partners now runs the Opportunity Trust, a separate $120 million hedge fund and the $116 million Miller Income Fund, managed by his son, 36-year-old Bill Miller IV.

Miller is the biggest investor in all three funds and can do what he likes–thinking big thoughts and placing big and often contrarian bets–without worrying about marketing or bosses. “I was at Legg Mason for 35 years and ran the Value Trust for 30 years. This is better,” he says. “Here it is much more about just growing the assets and not trying to get a constant inflow of new clients and doing pitches.”

In a revelation that should alarm anyone investing with Miller, Forbes claims his funds are doing little to hedge against a sudden drop in equity prices, meaning that Miller is vulnerable to history repeating itself. Miller rose to investing fame thanks to his record-setting feat of topping the market benchmark for 15 years straight between 1991 and 2005. However, he accrued massive losses during the crisis and the early years of the recovery. By the end of 2008, Value Trust had lost nearly two thirds of its value, wiping out most of Miller’s outperformance over the previous two decades. It came roaring back in 2009 and 2010, according to Forbes, but investors had already abandoned the fund, and Miller was by then the poster boy for the folly of paying active managers high fees to beat the market.

…heading into the 2007-08 financial crisis, Miller owned everything that would soon turn toxic: subprime mortgage lender Countrywide, now-defunct Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, bond insurers, home builders and even AIG. When conditions worsened, he once again doubled down, mistakenly believing (he now says) that the Federal Reserve could end the crisis quickly by injecting liquidity, when the real problem was asset values.”

The string of stunning losses led to Miller’s ouster from the Legg Mason Capital Management Value Trust in 2011, which he had managed since the early 1990s. However, circumstances are different this time. Miller is in control, meaning that if a string of losses send the outside money running for cover, he will be left alone to go down with the ship.

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