How not to interview a hedge fund legend

November 4, 2010, 7:28 PM UTC

Erin Burnett. Image: CNBC

If CNBC’s Erin Burnett weren’t born yesterday, she would know that when Julian Robertson likes a stock, he really likes it. When he ran Tiger Management, one of the early hedge funds, his motto was “find the 200 best companies in the world and invest in them, and find the 200 worst companies in the world and go short on them.”

But she was born yesterday. So she began her Robertson interview Thursday with a lead-in that asks “is he worried about an Apple bubble?” She nods agreeably as Robertson tells her Apple (AAPL) “seems to have everything going their way,” is “very reasonably valued” and that a lot of people weren’t around in the ’80s when stocks of far lower quality than Apple were selling at 50, 60 and 70 times earnings.

And she summarizes: “OK, you like it then.” Then she asks her question:

“But big picture, you’ve got some worries. Because, well, everybody knows Apple is a hot stock, it’s sort of become, I’ll be honest, it’s almost like a cult these days.”

That’s a statement, not a question. But Robertson, now 78, doesn’t take the “Apple bubble” bait or let her put words in his mouth. Instead, he patiently explains to Ms. Burnett that 18 to 20 times earnings “for maybe the greatest company in the world” isn’t at all high.

[UPDATE: Business Insider‘s Courtney Comstock has come to Erin’s defense. My head explodes.]

Video below the fold. Apologies for the 14-second ad.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]