Guy Selmar Spier
|Born||February 4, 1966|
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
|Education||British School, Teheran, Iran|
City of London Freemen's School, Ashtead, Surrey, UK
|Alma mater||Oxford University|
Harvard Business School
|Occupation||Investor, Aquamarine Fund, Author|
Guy Spier (born February 4, 1966) is a Zurich-based investor and author of a book on investing entitled The Education of a Value Investor. He is well known for bidding US$650,100 with Mohnish Pabrai for a charity lunch with Warren Buffett on June 25, 2008. In 2009, he was featured in "the Checklist Manifesto", by Atul Gawande regarding his use of checklists as part of his investment process.
Education and early life
Spier was born in 1966 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. When he was three months old his family moved to Tel Aviv, Israel where he attended kindergarten. In 1970 his family moved to Iran where he attended the British Embassy School in Tehran. In 1977 his family moved again to Richmond in the UK, and he attended the City of London Freemen's School, in Ashtead, Surrey as a weekly boarder. In 1984 he matriculated to study Law at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he was tutored by Hugh Collins and Mary Stokes among others. Two years later, in 1986, he switched to study PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics). Among his tutors were Peter Sinclair for Economics – where he occasionally shared tutorials with David Cameron, who would go on to become Prime Minister. He also studied politics with Vernon Bogdanor. Although he was thoroughly mediocre at Politics, he proved to be a capable economist and graduated with a First-class degree, having also been awarded the Georg Webb Medley Prize for his performance in Economics.
In 1990 Spier was offered places both in the Joint Business and Economics PhD program and at the MBA Program at Harvard. He opted to do the MBA and in 1993 he completed his MBA. Contemporaries at HBS include Mark Pincus, Chris Hohn and Sherry Coutu.
From 1988 to 1990, Spier was an associate at Braxton Associates, the strategy consulting firm which was later sold to Deloitte Consulting. Based out of the London and Paris offices, Spier worked with colleagues David Pitt-Watson, Michael Liebreich and others in advising British and European companies on their strategy vis-a-vis the European Common market. He subsequently took up an internship at the Forward Studies Unit (Cellule de Prospective) at the European Commission in Brussels.
Spier writes in his book that although interviewed with white-shoe firms like Goldman Sachs and J. P. Morgan during his last year at Harvard Business School, he turned down that opportunity to work in those, more structured environments for the lesser-known D.H. Blair. There he was given the title of Vice President and he sought funding for new technology startups. Spier subsequently described this experience as "not dissimilar" to the movie Wolf of Wall Street.. It was a career decision that he quickly came to regret.
Upon leaving investment banking Spier founded the Aquamarine Fund, an investment partnership inspired by, and styled after Warren Buffett's 1950s investment partnerships – which he continues to manage today and which had $250 million in AUM as of 31 December 2019.
He is also an occasional financial commentator in the media.
Spier follows closely Warren Buffett's principles on Value Investing and capital allocation. However, he also admits that Value Investing has changed over time, as the popularity of style means that generally fewer opportunities become available to investors. Ideas that will work would still be around, but the successful value investor of today has to look further and sometimes think outside the box.
In 2003, Spier became the target, along with David Einhorn, Bill Ackman, and Whitney Tilson, of investigations by Eliot Spitzer, then the New York Attorney General, as well as by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regarding short sales of Farmer Mac, MBIA corp and Allied Capital. The melt down of these companies during the late-2000s financial crisis vindicated their short thesis and was the subject of books by Ackman and Einhorn.
More recently, Spier has eschewed all forms of activism, stating, "“My goal as an investor is to compound money for my shareholders, not to pick unnecessary fights or conduct myself like an avenging moral crusader”
Spier has regularly advocated for probity and modesty in the management of financial firms. In 2008 Spier published a paper along with Peter Sinclair and Tom Skinner on "Bonuses, Credit Rating Agencies and the Credit Crunch" which argued that part of the cause of the 2008 crisis was short-termism leading to the miscalculation of bonuses at Credit Rating and other financial firms. He has also strongly advocated in favor of zero management fees when it comes to professional investment management. He has advocated for Switzerland to become a centre of true investing excellence. Writing "while Switzerland’s biotech, health and technology clusters are extraordinarily well developed, Swiss private banking still has a long way to go".
In 2014 Palgrave MacMillan published The Education of a Value Investor which narrates Spier's early career struggles in investment banking on Wall Street and his transformation into a Value investor. The book has sold more than 150,000 copies in English and has been translated into Spanish, German, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Polish, Hebrew and Vietnamese.
In 2016 Spier, along with Phil Town and Matthew P. Peterson successfully petitioned Judge Sontchi at the Delaware Court of Bankruptcy to form an official committee of equity holders of Horsehead Corporation – which had filed for bankruptcy earlier that year.
In 1997, Spier spoke out in The Independent against the increasing intrusion of paparazzi in British public life, writing "...if such a regime had been in place before last weekend, every tabloid which published photographs of Princess Diana and Dodi on their summer holidays would have been required to pay the resulting profits to them. I do not think that it would take too fine a legal mind to distinguish between public events, such as speeches and hospital visits, and private events, such as a ski trip with one's children or a ride in a car with a friend." In 2002, writing in the Financial Times, Spier questioned the motives of the directors of the Hershey Trust Company for selling out their stake asking, "Why would anybody in their right mind want to trade a significant share of Hershey, with its excellent characteristics, for an insignificant share of a hotchpotch of US business, probably chosen by some adviser who is better at getting selected than at delivering investment performance?". Spier regularly addresses students and other audiences including MIT, Ivey School of Business, Harvard Business School and Google.
From 2000 to 2005 Spier served, with the close support of Amanda Pullinger as the President of the Oxford Alumni Association of New York. Under his and Pullinger's leadership, the association grew to over 5,000 members and was a pioneer in bringing an American style approach on alumni relations to a British university. From 2007 to 2009, Spier served on the Advisory Board of the Dakshana Foundation. In 2011, Spier founded the VALUEx conference in Klosters. In 2017 Spier joined the newly formed board of the Swiss Friends of Oxford University. He also serves on the board of UN Watch and on the advisory boards of Horasis, and World Minds He is also a member of the International Council of the Global Leadership Foundation which was founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner F. W. de Klerk.
Spier lives in Zurich with his wife Lory and three children – Eva, Isaac and Sarah. He is related to the Lazard, Speyer and Rothschild banking families through his great great grandmother, Johanna Lazard. He is a former resident of Tuxedo Park, New York, the village constructed by Pierre Lorillard in the late 1800s, where he lived in the Bruce Price Cottage. He is a member of Entrepreneurs' Organization and of the Young Presidents' Organization.
- Spier, Guy. The Education of a Value Investor. Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 1137278811.
- "My $650,100 Lunch with Warren Buffett". Time. June 30, 2008.
- "Book Review: 'The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right".
- Catherine Mayer (September 11, 2008). "David Cameron: UK's Next Leader?". Time.
- Spier, Guy (2014). The Education of a Value Investor. Palgrave MacMillan. pp. 21–31. ISBN 1137278811.
- "Guy Spier says no reason to be scared of US financials". The Washington Post. October 31, 2011.
- "Guy Spier: How Value Investing has changed – new strategies of successful value investors – Opalesque TV". opalesque.tv. Retrieved February 5, 2017.
- "The Hedge Fund Witch Hunt: Eliot Spitzer's latest investigation is pursuing the wrong guys". Slate. Feb 13, 2003.
- "MBIA falls 13% after Moody's cuts rating Two-notch downgrade was more than some expected; Ambac cut to Aa". MarketWatch. June 20, 2008.
- Christine Richard. Confidence Game: How Hedge Fund Manager Bill Ackman Called Wall Street's Bluff.
- Fooling Some of the People All of the Time: A Long, Short Story, David Einhorn: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470073942.html
- Poljak, Vesna; Shapiro, Jonathan (October 26, 2020). "Australian Financial Review".
- Spier, Guy (2014). The Education of a Value Investor. Palgrave Macmillan.
- Spier, Guy; Sinclair, Peter; Skinner, Tom. "Bonuses, Credit Rating Agencies and the Credit Crunch". Centre for Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis. (CDMA Conference Paper Series).
- Spier, Guy. "Zero Management Fees".
- Spier, Guy. "Lombard Odier, Oxford University and sustainable finance: The remarkable transformation of a discreet Swiss private bank". Financial Nigeria. Retrieved 2 January 2021.
- "Horsehead Shareholders win court fight".
- "What has a bar to do with finding investment ideas? Guy Spier on idea generation, process and research". Retrieved 2019-11-20 – via YouTube.
- Spier, Guy (4 September 1997). "How to Beat the Paparazzi". The Independent.
- Spier, Guy (5 September 2002). "Investment in Chocolate - What Finer?". Financial Times.
- "MIT Management Sloan School Conference".
- "Interview with Guy Spier". Ivey School of Business.
- "Authors at Google".
- "Things We Wish We'd Never Heard". New York Observer. 6 June 2005.
- "Value strategy - OBSERVER". Financial Times. 29 June 2006.
- Pabrai, Mohnish (April–May 2009). "Dakshana Annual Report 2009" (PDF). dakshana.org.
- "Swiss Friends opens for business – Development Office". University of Oxford. Retrieved 2019-09-11.
- "Our board " Swiss Friends of Oxford University". Retrieved 2019-04-13.
- "Descendents of Wolf Speyer Spier, Merzhausen" (PDF).
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