New Rochelle, New York is a small city about 25 minutes north of Manhattan. My family has called it home for many years. I and my wife attended the local public high school pictured below. New Rochelle
After the Coronavirus outbreak, New Rochelle gained notoriety it had not had probably since the Dick Van Dyke show took place there in the 1960s. It was the location of the first major cluster of the virus on the East Coast. Over the past few weeks one of our high school classmates, the city’s mayor, Noan Bramson, gained national fame by appearing on just about every major national news program as the go to spokesperson for the first quarantine and national guard deployment in the United States during my lifetime.
Although I had flown up from Naples, Florida to spend spring break with my family at our New Rochelle house, our plans quickly changed. When we heard that part of the town was being quarantined, the National Guard was being called in, and that the boys were not going to be heading back to school after spring break, our family headed to a remote part of the Adirondacks making sure we had ample food, toilet paper, and, perhaps most importantly, internet and telephone connectivity. Traveling back to Naples was not an option given that I was not inclined to get on an airplane, and, given that I stopped briefly in New Rochelle which had been in the news daily, no one at the Naples office was comfortable about me coming back.
So, I worked through this first phase of extreme market volatility from a remote office that was fully functional. As prices for many assets from equities to muni bonds to even gold and United States treasuries sold off, I thought a lot about the title of Seth Klarman’s famous book on investing, “Margin of Safety.” Seth Klarman is the founder of Baupost Group, a $27 billion dollar Boston based hedge fund that specializes in value investing. The Wall Street Journal claims the firm has returned approximately 19% per year since 1982. He is also well known for his seminal work on value investing mentioned above. The book had only one printing of 250 books in 1991, copies of which now sell at exorbitant prices in the after-market. Copies in new condition are often sold for more than $3000 on eBay.