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The Billionaire Who Wasn’t

This is another fantastic article from Forbes on Duty Free founder Chuck Feeney. In addition to being a great businessman and philanthropist, Feeney has a few other qualities that remind me great investors (bolded text is mine):

Purposely off the radar:

“The aggressive growth strategy placed DFS in the perfect position for the subsequent Japanese economic explosion. Feeney received annual dividend payouts worth $12,000 in 1967, according to O’Clery. His payout in 1977? Twelve million dollars. Over the next decade Feeney banked nearly $334 million in dividends that he plowed into hotels, retail shops, clothing companies and, later, tech startups. He remained obsessively secretive and low key, but the money was now too big to ignore.”

Money as a scorecard:

“He loved making money but had no need for it once it was made. Feeney was happy with simple things. ” “I’m a competitive type of person whether it’s playing a game of basketball or playing business games,” says Feeney. “I don’t dislike money, but there’s only so much money you can use.”

Obsessed with value:

“Casual observers categorize Feeney as frugal, but that’s a simplistic diagnosis. On the spending side Feeney obsesses over value, and on the cost side, he loathes waste. Atlantic’s president and CEO, Chris Oechsli, recalls staying in a Vietnam hostel with him on one business trip but adds that Feeney also once sent him back to the U.S. on the Concorde because he understood the need to get him home in time for the holidays. As for Feeney, he flew millions of miles in coach because first class didn’t get him to his destination any faster. He wears a rubber Casio watch because it keeps time like a Rolex. During our train back from Limerick he would curse and shake his head each time we passed one of many abandoned housing developments (ghost estates) left over from the country’s real estate bust. “I’m always the first guy to ask how much is that or what does it cost?” Feeney says about living the high life. “I never tried it because I knew I wouldn’t like it.” Feeney rarely owned a car because they were difficult to park in cities–although he admits briefly owning a used Jaguar when he lived in Hong Kong. No yacht? “I guess the answer to that is I get seasick easy.”

Self-deprecating:

“Feeney might soon gain access to the biggest megaphone of all: Hollywood. George Clooney has reportedly considered adapting Feeney’s story for the silver screen. Who should play him in the film? Feeney thinks deeply on our way back from Limerick and chuckles before sharing his answer: “Probably Danny DeVito.”