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This is essentially a collection of “war stories” from Greenblatt and his investing career. Each chapter focuses on a “special situation” investment scenario, with a brief outline of the value opportunities presented by each one and then he goes on to relate some investment cases that illustrate such principles. His non-nonsense, funny and direct writing style makes the concepts he explains very simple and intuitive, even though what he describes is somewhat complicated. His capacity alone to simplify such operations in a concise manner without jargons is a good enough reason to read this book.
While some content here is outdated, with some edge sources having been arbitraged out, the book still presents a great source material to get into special situations. If anything, the book core, timeless principles are: i) invest some time in understanding complicated/unusual corporate actions and ii) understand where the incentives are before and after such corporate actions. The big deviations (and large profit opportunities) described in these pages are a result of mismatched incentives and institutional requirements peppered with psychological biases. These are unlikely to disappear. They are, instead, more likely to appear in different formats and, as such, this book shall remain an important reference for such operations.
My only reservation with this book is a feeling that, by choosing to retell almost exclusively its successes, Mr. Greenblatt may be prone to be cherry-picking his results to some degree: investors could learn as much (and maybe get a better sense on how to manage the risk inherent to such operations) if he included more details of the errors he frequently alludes to in his book.
Ignore the ridiculous title, this is a fantastic book. It's no Stocks 101 either. It assumes you already know a few things, so if you don't, read the newest Intelligent Investor with Zweig commentary or Greenwald's Value Investing.
The author specializes in event-driven investing and goes over how you can use it in your personal investing too, as well as how to look at the relevant SEC filings when these events (spinoffs, spinouts, insider selling) and what to look for in them. It's essentially an extension of Securities Analysis. It also discusses LEAPS and Merger Securities if you're interested in that. I don't deal with them personally. In the same section there is a very cogent overview of options. It also discusses how to examine bankruptcies and bankruptcy filings with an eye towards investment. I photocopied and thumbtacked to my wall pages 219-220, which details all the important event-driven SEC filings, in and of itself essentially worth whatever the book costs.
The book is loaded with Case Studies taken from the real world. This book wasn't written by some stuffy academic, this guy walks the walk, check his fund results. He can also write quite well and his interpretation of case studies is often sprinkled with humor. Not that it matters all that much in a finance book, since I don't read this sort of books for pleasure, but it certainly makes the often dense topics a lot easier to read.
Also, as an aside, it made me buckets of money by giving me knowledge necessary to understand and profit from the News Corp. spinout which I otherwise wouldn't have.
One of the best financial books I've ever read. Highest possible recommendation
Okay, so the title of the book leaves something to be desired, but that is the ONLY part of this book that falls short. Joel Greenblatt has written an excellent book on profiting from special situations. That's fortunate for the rest of us, since so far as I can tell, this is the ONLY book that provides an overview of event-driven investing. Note that I said "overview"--it's by no means definitive, nor does it claim to be. Certainly more rigorous treatments of risk arbitrage exist. However, this is the only book I'm aware of that is dedicated to explaining merger securities, spinoffs, recapitalizations, bankruptcy and yes, risk arbitrage. The book's format is well thought out: each chapter explains the how and why of investing in one particular corporate event, and then utilizes case studies to ram the point home. The case studies are interesting, reading at times like a novel. The tone is lighthearted and endearing throughout, and the frequent jokes, although usually kitschy, hit the mark nonetheless. (One gem: "There are three types of people in the world--those who can count, and those who can't.") This book is not for everyone, however. Beginners should first read Peter Lynch, Ben Graham, and Phillip Fisher before tackling this one. Greenblatt assumes a reasonable degree of comfort with financial statements and value investing strategies on the part of the reader. The use of LEAPS and options in special situations is covered, but should be avoided by all save for the most advanced investors (as per the author's advice). Also, professionals working in the field of event-driven investments would probably find little they did not already know. That being said, the book reads quickly, so a pro would be little disadvantaged for reading it. Finally, it's nice to know that the author can walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Greenblatt publishes his firm's audited returns over a ten-year period at the end of the book, and they are out of this world. We're talking an average annual return of 50% for ten years. This book is not a case of "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." Greenblatt can, and he does. Highly recommended.
Classic value investing books like Intelligent Investor tells you *what* value investing is (i.e. buying businesses at a big discount to intrinsic value). Joel Greenblatt book tells you *why* these situations exist (index inclusion/exclusion, spin-offs, restructurings etc.) and *how* to identify these situations and recognize the catalysts that will bring a stock's price back closer to intrinsic value.
The main criticism I see in the reviews are: 1) The writing it too advanced, the situations are complicated and it takes too much work to profit from these situations. 2) There is no standardized formula for the novice investor to follow
My responses would be: 1) If it was easy, everybody would be a billionaire. It definitely requires a lot of work, identifying situations and reading lots of regulatory filings to figure out the nuances of certain transactions/situations. That is also why decades after this book was published, people can still find these situations to generate abnormal returns - precisely because many investors may not be willing to be in the time, effort and work into it. 2) Joel Greenblatt has since written the magic formula books for novice investors to follow. That "works" to a certain extent to give you better than average results but not the potential for phenomenal return situations identified in this book. Again it is an effort/reward thing.
Seriously, you can't expect to read one book, put in no effort, and make boatloads of money from the stock market. This book gives you many of the tools you need, IF you're willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears into your investing endeavour.
I read this book about three years ago and really wish I'd come across it earlier. It has made me a mint. This is not a book for beginners; read Graham, Fisher, Lynch, and Buffet's essays first. Those authors will give you the basis for understanding and identifying a good investment but they won't give you a competitive advantage against the tens of thousands of analysts out there. This book literally changed the way I look at the market. I now look for situations where I can apply fundamental analysis, a la Graham et al, without competing against the armies of analysts with more time and resources or I look to exploit structural weaknesses in the market that give me an advantage. As a result I've returned over 40% in each of the past three years using the approaches outlined by Greenblatt. For example, Marriot's Vacation spin-off and Jim Malone's spin-off of Starz did very well. Both these invest were nearly identical to investments detailed in the book for Marriot and Malone's Liberty Media many years earlier. I also discovered Bruce Berkowitz's purchases of AIG and BAC after the 2007 crash by reading the section on Bruce Berkowitz's purchase of WF. Again the situations were nearly identical. History really does repeat itself and those repeats can be very profitable if you pay attention. Make no mistake, it still takes a hellacious amount of work, patience and discipline but the odds are much favorable following Greenblatt's advice. Greenblatt will tell you where to look for good buys but doesn't give much advice on when to sell - that's the trick. Never buy a stock without knowing when you are going to sell.