Good Luck, Hard Work, And Good Intuition (w/ Leon G. Cooperman) | Grant Williams | Real Vision™


The world of finance contains many larger
than life characters who transcend the industry, and whose records speak for themselves. And many of these men and women have an almost
mythical quality surrounding. Today, I’m traveling to Boca Raton in Florida
to speak with one such man. A man who’s built a stellar career that has
its roots in old fashioned values like discipline, thoroughness, and a work ethic, which has
become the stuff of legend on Wall Street. Now after a high profile battle with the SEC,
he’s chosen to return his investors’ capital, turned his back on Wall Street after 40 years,
and concentrate on his family office and philanthropic endeavors, a decision I want to explore today
to try and understand whether it’s a natural winding down to his career or something more. So please join me for a conversation. With Lee Cooperman. Lee, thank you so much for having us in your
home. It’s a pleasure to be here. LEE COOPERMAN: My pleasure. GRANT WILLIAMS: The beauty of talking to you
is I don’t need to introduce you to your audience. They’re all going to be Intimately aware of
who you are, and your track record. But what I really want to do is walk through
your career with you, and give people a chance to hear about your experiences. And from you talk, about how you adapted and
survived and thrived in an industry that’s changed enormously over the course of your
career. LEE COOPERMAN: Well, I would attribute whatever
success I’ve enjoyed frankly, to good luck, hard work, and good intuition. And so if I trace my career along the way,
I could point out why I say what I say. So back in the ’60s, if you finished major
and minor in college in three years, you could count your first year of medical, dental school
toward your fourth year of college and get a separate degree. So in December of 1963, I toiled very hard
in the University of Pennsylvania laboratories. And I took physical chemistry during a summer
to finish off my major. And then I immediately enrolled in the University
of Pennsylvania dental school. And after eight days, which I see a smile
on your face– and after eight days, I made a determination that I wasn’t sure I was heading
in the right direction. That was like intuition. Very traumatic experience. My father, may he rest in peace, was walking
around saying, you know, my son, the dentist. I paid tuition for a year, I paid room and
board for a year. I had to suffer the embarrassment of going
back to undergraduate school. But I made the determination that I wanted
that one year to think through whether I was fully committed to dentistry or not at great
cost. And I call that intuition. So I went back to Hunter College City University
of New York. The only one that understood the trauma of
the decision was the Dean, Glen T Nygren, who’s deceased. I had to get permission for him to matriculate
back into the City University of New York. He gave me permission. He complimented me on the decision. And I had a year of electives available, because
my major/minor was all done. And so I took 10 courses in economics, got
10 As, and never looked back. I found what interested me. And so I say that’s number one– intuition. Then when I graduated, I went to work for
Xerox up in Rochester, New York as a quality control engineer. And decided to basically go back to school,
get an MBA. I went to Columbia Business School. And that’s been very helpful to me. And some of the people you know, like Samdberg,
Mario Gabelli become great friends as a result of meeting them at business school. And that opened the door to me at Goldman
Sachs. And I consider myself very anal. So when I’m supposed to be somewhere, I’m
on time, if not early. And I meet all deadlines– very old fashioned. And it was the only time in my life I didn’t
meet a deadline. I got a job offer from Goldman Sachs in 1966,
and I get a call from who turned out to be my boss ultimately, Bob Danforth. And said, Lee, we’re very disappointed, we
haven’t heard from you. And I said, well, I’m going to be honest with
you. I’m broke. I have a National Defense Education Act student
loan, have a six-month-old kid, have no money in the bank. And Goldman is not one of the higher offers
I have. It’s actually one of the lower offers. But I liked everybody I met. And I was very familiar with the Union Carbide
compound interest tables, which were floating around at that. Time and the job offer was about 11,000, 11,500
or something like that. And I asked him if he thought I could make
25,000 in five years. That was like a 15% compound rate of growth. And he gave me– he was from Yankton, South
Dakota, and he gave a nice understated answer. He said, if you work hard and keep your nose
clean, I think you could do it. So I said, OK, I’ll accept a job. And so if I look back, Goldman is one of the
few firms whose names haven’t changed for the last 50 odd years. I could have gone to Goodbody, I could have
gone to Kuhn Loeb. You know, Loeb, Rhoades, Hornblower. You know, there’s so many different firms
are no longer around– Kuhn Loeb. And I went to a firm whose name didn’t change
for the last 50 years. And they experienced great prosperity, and
I enjoyed participating in that prosperity. So that was luck, intuition, whatever. And you know, when I became a Goldman partner,
it was 1976. The firm had a record year in 1976. They earned all of $40 million. And the year I retired 14 years later from
Goldman to start Omega, they earned $1.8 billion. So as a partner, I shared in that prosperity. So I’ve been very lucky. But I’ve worked very hard. I worked 70 hour work weeks plus, plus I worked
seven days a week. But I enjoy what I do. And I don’t look at it as work. You know, Warren Buffett says he likes the
tap dance to work, go to work with people you respect and admire, and everything takes
care of itself. And that’s kind of the life I’ve led. You know, I’m a very simple guy. And you know, I’ve been very lucky. And I appreciate the luck I’ve had. GRANT WILLIAMS: Everybody that you and I know
in common, that’s the one thing they always point out– how hard you work. And how for you, this is something that you
genuinely love doing. LEE COOPERMAN: Yes. Well, I enjoy the hunt. What I enjoy doing is finding something somebody
else doesn’t see, making a bet, and having Mr. Market proved me right. GRANT WILLIAMS: Right. LEE COOPERMAN: And I enjoy that. And I’m kind of narrow in my interest. I don’t collect sports teams. In fact, I don’t even follow sports hardly
at all. I’m not an art collector. I’ve been very fortunate, I’ve been married
54 years to the same woman. I have two grown kids with three grandkids,
and my kids are terrific, and my grandkids are even better. And so I’m very focused on what I do, and
I enjoy what I do. And I don’t look at it as work. You know, it’s old fashioned, but it’s kind
of the way I look at it. I enjoy what I do. GRANT WILLIAMS: That hunt that you talk about. I guess for someone that was set on a path
to become a dentist, obviously, you switched, and finance became something that you found
you loved. And that hunt, going somewhere like Columbia
Business School, and that value invest in the Graham Dodd School– how did that shape
the way that you invest for the rest of that career? LEE COOPERMAN: Well, you know, I studied under
Professor Roger Murray, who was a real practitioner. He was an adjunct professor. He actually was a Dean of the school for a
short period of time. He taught security analysis and he also had
a day job of chief investment officer at College Retirement Equities Fund. And he was a real practitioner. And he just helped honed and focus my interest. And it’s you find what you like. And I enjoy working with numbers, I enjoy
working with people. Ben Graham and the Intelligent Investor hypothesized
that the security analyst evaluates management twice in the investigation once through the
numbers. Because after all, when you look at a company,
their return on equity, their market share, their profit margins, the return on capital
is a function of the quality of management. And then you meet the manager face to face,
you interrogate them, you ask questions, you see how they respond to your questions. And you know, it’s something I just found
an affinity for, an enjoyment.

One thought on “Good Luck, Hard Work, And Good Intuition (w/ Leon G. Cooperman) | Grant Williams | Real Vision™

  1. This video is a miss. Anyone will work hard while being adequately rewarded. Good luck finding the motivation to work eighty-hour weeks for your employer after five raiseless years.

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