Beware billionaires bearing buy recommendations. And sell recommendations for that matter.
Wednesday is the annual Ira Sohn Investment Conference in New York City, where hedge fund managers gather to present their latest stock picks, and hear investment recommendations from others. The event raises money for cancer, and it has a feel good vibe, even when the short sellers are presenting. The event draws a large crowd, as stock-picking events go, and there a sense you are getting the top picks of the top stock pickers.
This year’s event features bond guru Jeff Gundlach, newly crowned Yahoo (YHOO) board member Jeff Smith, and former Soros fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller. Many of the big names have yet to speak. But already Carson Black, a prominant short seller has recommending betting against regional financial firm Bank of the Ozarks (OZRK). And Chamath Palihapitiya, a venture capitalist who recently launched a hedge fund, and who Fortune profiled recently, recommended buying Amazon (AMZN).
The problem: While the conference draws some of the top names in investing, the picks they’ve presented haven’t always worked out so well. That’s not too much of a surprise. Hedge funds in general have underperformed index funds in recent years. Here’s a look back at how some of last year’s top picks of fund managers at Sohn have fared. We rated the picks based on their returns on a scale from “Warren Buffett” (great) to “Bill Ackman” (ouch).
Einhorn gets credit last year for predicting the doom of the “mother frackers,” but he also suggested buying SunEdison (SUNE), which has been a doozy of a pick. SunEdison filed for bankruptcy in mid-April. (Read: SunEdison’s Epic Failure Had Little to Do With Clean Energy)
Investment Pick: Short the stocks of the “Mother frackers.”
How’d it do: A Warren Buffett. Shares of the fracking stocks Einhorn suggested betting against included Whiting Petroleum (WLL), which has fallen 70% in the past year.
Investment Pick: Buy shares of SunEdison.
How’d it do: A Bill Ackman. Shares of SunEdison have plunged 97% in the past year.
Mala Gaonkar of Lone Pine Capital
Investment Pick: Buy shares of Microsoft (MSFT).
How’d it do: A Bill Miller (better than average). Shares of Microsoft are up 8% in the past year.
Investment Pick: Puerto Rican general obligation bonds.
How’d it do: A Bill Ackman. Gundlach said they were risky, but he was buying them. Puerto Rican general obligation bonds rose to 85 cents on the dollar last June, but have since fallen to 64 cents on the dollar following last week’s announcement it was unable to make a $422 debt payment. (Read: John Oliver Gets ‘Hamilton’ Star to Rap Emotional Plea to Help Save Puerto Rico)
Barry Rosenstein of Jana Partners
Investment Pick: Buy shares of Qualcomm (QCOM)
How’d it do: A Bill Ackman. Shares of the mobile technology company have fallen 27% in the past year.
Investment pick: Buy shares of Valeant Pharmaceuticals. Ackman said the company was on the verge of becoming the next Berkshire Hathaway.
How’d it do: A Bill Ackman. Shares of the pharmaceutical company have collapsed, falling 85% in the past year. Valeant recently fired its CEO, and Ackman has joined the company’s board. (Read: Why Bill Ackman Regrets Buying Valeant)
After taking a beating in Valeant, and in general suffering some pretty bad performance recently, Ackman decided to sit out this year’s Ira Sohn conference.