In Memory of Contrary Opinion - Cabot Wealth Network

In Memory of Contrary Opinion

Thirty years ago, soon after I joined my father in full-time employment here at Cabot, I attended my first Contrary Opinion Forum, at the sprawling Basin Harbor Club on the banks of Lake Champlain in bucolic Vergennes, Vermont.

Held annually in late September or early October, when the leaves turn color, the nights are crisp, but the days still warm, the forum provided a wonderful opportunity each year to learn from some brilliant investing experts in one of the most pleasant venues possible.

Over the past 30 years, in fact, I heard from such experts as these:

James Grant, Editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer

Jeremy Grantham, Partner of Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo

Robert Prechter, of Elliott Wave Theory

Edward C. Johnson III, President of Fidelity Group

George Putnam III, founder of New Generation Investments

Ned Davis, of Ned Davis Research

Robert Farrell, Chief Market Strategist of Merrill Lynch

John B. Neff, Vanguard Windsor Fund’s portfolio manager

Martin Barnes, BCA Research, Montreal, Quebec

Al Frank, Editor of The Prudent Speculator

Dean LeBaron, of Batterymarch Financial Management

Bill Nasgovitz, President of the Heartland Value Fund

Michael Burke, Editor of Investors Intelligence

Dr. John Schott, Psychiatrist/Money Manager

Peter L. Bernstein, Economist

John Bogle, Chairman of The Vanguard Group

William H. Miller III, President of Legg Mason Fund Adviser

Charles Royce, President of The Royce Funds in New York, NY

Ralph Acampora, Prudential Securities, NY

Steve Leuthold, The Leuthold Group, Minneapolis, MN

Dr. A. Gary Shilling, PhD of A. Gary Shilling & Co.

Eoin Treacy, Global Strategist and CEO at Fullermoney.com

Louis Navellier, Chairman of the Board, Navellier and Associates

Some of these people were professional investors, some professional economists and some professional observers and advisers, and as a group they provided a stimulating cocktail of ideas as the decades slipped by.

But as my father taught me long ago, all things have life cycles, from people to companies to institutions, and so it was with the Contrary Opinion Forum, which lasted 54 years and in the process gave itself the title of “The Longest Continuing Investment Conference in the USA.”

The forum was born in Manchester, Vermont in 1962, the brainchild of Humphrey Neill, who wrote four books on investing. Neill was a major proponent of the theory of Contrary Opinion, which maintains that whenever the herd is running in one direction, one should consider evaluating the options for moving in the opposite direction. Neill styled himself “the Vermont Ruminator,” and just looking at his photo you can imagine the flinty independence characteristic of Vermonters.

Before long, Neill was joined by Jim Fraser, a money manager who lived and worked in Burlington, Vermont. While I never knew Humphrey Neill (he passed away in 1977), I got to know Jim Fraser well.

Jim was far more than a money manager, he was kindhearted and selfless, and had a deep respect for the wisdom of the ages, particularly works that were published long ago and often forgotten. Jim was the best kind of contrarian; wary of the consensus opinion and eager to follow a logical trail to a less populated place.

He was also a dealer in old books (primarily books on investing) and he eventually came to republish many of them as Fraser Publishing Company.

Every year at the Contrary Opinion Forum, the combination of age-old wisdom from the books, along with Jim’s convivial intellectual attitude, created a wonderful atmosphere that attendees grew to relish. At the same time, attendees grew fond of each other as well, as the forum provided a comfortable environment for sharing ideas with peers (most of the attendees were professional investors of some sort).

There was excellent food and drink.

There were lots of jokes, like this one.

Dan was a single guy living at home with his widowed father and working in the family business.

When he found out he was going to inherit a fortune when his sickly father died, he decided he needed a wife with whom to share his fortune.

One evening at an investment seminar, he spotted the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her natural beauty took his breath away. So he said to her, “I may look like just an ordinary man, but in just a few years, my father will die, and I’ll inherit $300 million.”

Impressed, the woman took his card. Three days later, she became his stepmother.

And, reflecting Jim’s lifelong pursuit of investing wisdom, each year at least two buttons were distributed, expressing wisdom like this.

I have 108 of these buttons. You can see them all here.

But Jim bowed out of the business in 2004 due to failing health, and while the publishing business ended soon after, the money management business (small but honorable), including the forum, was acquired by a fellow from North Carolina.

Trouble was, while Jim was the kind of guy you were happy to see enter a room, the new owner was the kind of guy who, as Paul Goodwin famously put it, “When he entered the room, it was as if someone had left.”

Slowly and steadily, attendance at the forums declined. Nevertheless, the new owner kept the forum going. Inertia worked for a while.

Then, in 2013, the money management business of the North Carolina guy (along with the forum) was acquired by a company from, of all places, Las Vegas!

What had thrived under the loving of independent-minded Yankees was now in the hands of a distant faceless corporation!

The new owners tried to preserve the spirit of the event; they kept it in Vermont. But when the new host kicked off the proceedings at the annual forum—attendance still dwindling—he didn’t even tell us his name!

Adding insult to injury, there were no more jokes—and no more buttons!

At the 2015 forum, I was one of the attendees (apparently not the only one) who vowed that it would be my last. The critical mass was gone. The camaraderie was gone. Worst of all, the spirit was gone.

And this year, while there was no death notice, there was no invitation to attend either.

But just as I was preparing to write this “obituary,” I found a notice explaining that while there would be no official forum this year, there will be an informal gathering, with no formal events and no registration fee.

Interested parties can just show up at the Basin Harbor Club from September 29 to October 1 and chat, discussing—among other things—how to resurrect the forum.

As I write, the only former speaker who’s promised to show up is Eoin Treacy. I won’t be there. Nevertheless, I wish any attendees luck, and if I might make one suggestion, it’s that if they want to attract people, they should invite as a speaker for 2017 the best-known Vermonter of all today, Bernie Sanders!

Sure, as a Socialist, Sanders is often on the other side of the fence from Capitalism, but investigating alternative viewpoints is in the spirit of Contrary Opinion!

Cabot Investors Conference

We recently wrapped up the fourth annual Cabot Investors Conference and are already planning the fifth, with the only major change being a shift in date from mid-August to mid-September, when the kids are back in the school and the weather in Salem is sometimes even nicer.

So for those of you considering attending, let me give you some idea of what the conference is like, so you might reserve some time in your busy schedule.

The conference is held at the historic Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Massachusetts.

All the Cabot analysts and editors will be speaking, both individually and in panels.

There’s plenty of time for discussion, both with the speakers and the other attendees—who are all wonderful people who have begun to enjoy the camaraderie of the sort that characterized the Contrary Opinion Forum.

There’s plenty of good food and drink.

And there are no exhibitors to detract from our message—which is this:

We can help make you a better investor!

So, if you’re at all interested, block out September 13-15, 2017 on your calendar. We’ll provide more details early next year.

Profit from Apple’s New Wireless AirPods

My father used to say, “The most bullish thing a stock can do is hit new highs.”

Well, here’s a chart of a stock that broke out to new highs last Thursday, just a week after the market’s big interest-rate-hike-fear selloff.

And this means that investors who followed Mike Cintolo’s advice in Cabot Top Ten Trader are now looking at a quick profit of 15%!

Mike made this stock his Top Pick on August 1, when it had just popped up following an excellent earnings report, and now the stock is surging higher again, as investors are learning that this chip company is a major supplier of the components that power Apple’s (AAPL) new wireless AirPods.

For details on the stock, and to become a regular recipient of Mike’s high-potential stock recommendations, click here.

But don’t delay—the bull market won’t wait!

 

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