Digging Deep, Coming Up Big
It is fitting that the big win Lee Ainslie is willing to talk about is a highly successful investment that his firm, Maverick Capital, made in a technology company. Technology is how Ainslie became interested in stocks in the first place.
He was 14.
An investment club had started up at his school, and the club members wanted to track a number of early computer stocks. It was the era of the Commodore PET, of Radio Shack’s TRS-80—known lovingly as the “Trash 80”—and of the legendary Apple II. Do-it-yourselfers, a large number of whom were schoolboys, were tireless in the creative uses to which they put BASIC, the Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code that was the first accessible language of computer programming. Young Lee Ainslie asked the teacher guiding the investment club if he could write a BASIC program that would track the stocks the club had interest in. The teacher said yes, and Ainslie wrote the program. He has been tracking stocks ever since.
He has also been investing in them with stunning success—first at the fabled Tiger Management Corporation, headed by his mentor, Julian Robertson, and then at the hedge fund he created in 1993, Maverick Capital, consistently recognized as one of the top funds in the world. Nevertheless, it was through being what Lee Ainslie describes as “a computer nerd,” that he discovered and embarked upon his life’s work.
The work is stock picking—pure and, if not simple, certainly classic. ...