The Untold Story Behind Our CEO's Single Greatest Investment
In the early 2000s, Motley Fool co-founder and CEO Tom Gardner recommended one under-the-radar stock in the Fool's Hidden Gems service, that would go on to become his greatest investment of all time. The stock was called Middleby , a little commercial kitchen equipment manufacturer, and when Tom spotted it, the company immediately stood out to him as the type of company he considers an outsider.
Based on the book, The Outsiders, by Will Thorndike, an outsider company is the type of company that delivers unbelievable results in highly unorthodox ways. Tom bought in at $9 a share; today, it stands at $280 a share, bringing in an unbelievable 30 times Tom's investment during the decade that he's held the stock.
Now, Tom wants to share the concept of finding outsider companies early, by outlining how to pick stocks that have the potential to grow 15%-20% or more per year during the course of 10, 15, even 20 years. In this video, he tells investors how he found Middleby, why it stood out as a shining star, and the handful of key ingredients he looks for to tell an outsider stock apart from the crowd. He then tells investors how they can find out more about outsider investing through Motley Fool One, and even invites investors to join him in Dallas, along with prominent CEOs and other interested investors, to attend the Saturday and Monday games of this year's Final Four.
A full transcript follows the video.
The "Outsider Final Four"
To get access to full coverage of Tom's "Outsider Final Four" -- including in-depth research write-ups, candid interviews with special guests, and spirited advisor roundtables -- absolutely free of charge simply click here.
TOM GARDNER: Hi. I'm Tom Gardner, co-founder and CEO of The Motley Fool and advisor of Motley Fool One.
At Motley Fool One -- our all-access service at The Motley Fool -- we've been talking this month about outsider companies... companies that have delivered unbelievable results for shareholders, and they've done so in a highly unorthodox way, usually off the beaten path. They're not the companies, necessarily, that you've heard of in your everyday experience as a consumer.
No, these are businesses like Teledyne , which was run by Henry Singleton for decades and delivered more than 20% a year to investors over a 20-plus year period. That type of return turns your few thousand dollars, added here and there along the way, into a multimillion dollar portfolio... just one great stock like that. And that's what we've been looking for in our outsider companies based on a wonderful book, The Outsiders, by Will Thorndike.
Now, my greatest investment ever was an outsider investment, and it was an investment in a company called Middleby Corporation -- which I found. In the early 2000s, the stock was trading about $9 a share, and what I loved about the business were a few things.
Number one -- their CEO, Selim Bassoul -- who is pretty much the greatest CEO that I've encountered as an investor and student of business over the last 25 years. Selim Bassoul, number one, is all in on ovens. In fact, when he took over Middleby, the business ... When he took over as CEO, the business was distributed in a whole bunch of different products for commercial kitchens -- refrigerators, deli cases, all sorts of different... pots and pans.... everything. And ovens.
And Selim made a very interesting and highly unorthodox decision. He made the decision to simply stop selling 80% of the products that were being sold. He dropped all those SKUs, and he moved with a focus on just ovens, and he did so because ovens are a... energy efficiency is a big concern. Cost is a big concern. Safety is a big concern. And he felt, "If we can just dominate this niche... instead of trying to be all things to all people in restaurant chains around the world, let's dominate this one category."
That stock was at $9 a share. Today, it's at around $280 a share since I recommended it in 2003, 2004. It's a 30-bagger.
And what I learned from that is, if you can learn as much as possible about the CEO of your company... ensure that they are absolutely obsessed with their industry... and that they are excellent in capital allocation... in other words, Selim Bassoul has used debt -- low-interest debt -- very effectively to make acquisitions. He paid a big, special one-time dividend about seven or eight years ago. He's incredibly thoughtful about how to use capital effectively to drive long-term results for shareowners of the business at Middleby.
Middleby has gone from $9 a share. When it was about a 10-bagger, I put it out there that we would open a bottle of champagne with Selim Bassoul when the stock hit $150, and we did that together in Greenwood, Mississippi at the headquarters of Viking. If you know the Viking residential oven company, they were acquired by Middleby, and we met to discuss that acquisition and share those insights with our members.
When we were there, the stock was around $150, and I said: "Here we are, Selim. When the stock hits $300, we're going to get together again and open another bottle of champagne and celebrate." And it did that about a month ago. The stock's come back a little bit to around $280 a share, but it's still a 30-bagger since our initial recommendation in Hidden Gems about 10 years ago.
And so, what we are doing? We're gathering with Selim, with other members of Motley Fool One, with new members of Motley Fool One, with some other CEOs, and some other great investors in Dallas at the Final Four. We're going to attend the Saturday and Monday games together, which will be a very exciting time and opportunity to talk investments, to talk business, to talk to principals of the outsiders, and to find some great companies. And that's what we're doing every day in Motley Fool One.
So, if you have an interest in learning more about Motley Fool One ... In finding great outsider investments that have the potential to grow 15-20% or more per year, over not just a year or three years, but 10-25 years... these companies are not common. It takes some work to find them, but there are principles that you can use to find them, and that's what we're doing together in Motley Fool One.
So, if you're interested in Motley Fool One, outsider investing, and possibly attending the Final Four with us, click the link below and join us in the Motley Fool One member lobby. It's a completely free experience. I look forward to working together with you in the lobby and, perhaps, hopefully working together in Motley Fool One in the year and years to come.
I wish you the best of luck with your investments, and Fool on!
The article The Untold Story Behind Our CEO's Single Greatest Investment originally appeared on Fool.com.Tom Gardner owns shares of Middleby. The Motley Fool recommends Middleby. The Motley Fool owns shares of Middleby. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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