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Daniel Scrivner

Who is Henry Singleton? Lessons from the Brilliant CEO who Built Teledyne and Pioneered the Modern Conglomerate

This is part of my profiles on history's greatest innovators, founders, and investors. Check out the profiles of Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, Bernard Arnault, Steve Jobs, Rick Rubin, or browse them all. You can also browse my collection of the greatest speeches, interviews, and letters of all-time.

Henry Singleton has the best operating and capital deployment record in American business... if one took the 100 top business school graduates and made a composite of their triumphs, their record would not be as good as Singleton's. — Warren Buffett, 1980
Henry Singleton was this very brilliant, intellectual type who could foresee all these problems that no one else could see, and he saw opportunities. Henry was as intellectual as anyone I had come across.” — Arthur Rock
''He understood how to move between real assets and financial assets in a way you don't see today. 'He was the most brilliant industrialist that I've ever met, and I've met many.'' — Leon G. Cooperman

Known today only to a small group of investors and cognoscenti, Henry Singleton was a remarkable man with an unusual background for a CEO. A world-class mathematician who enjoyed playing chess blindfolded, he had programmed MIT's first computer while earning a doctorate in electrical engineering. During World War II, he developed a "degaussing" technology that allowed Allied ships to avoid radar detection, and in the 1950s, he created an inertial guidance system that is still in use in most military and commercial aircraft. All that before he founded a conglomerate, Teledyne, in the early 1960s and became one of history's great CEOs.

Conglomerates were the Internet stocks of the 1960s, when large numbers of them went public. Singleton, however, ran a very unusual conglomerate. Long before it became popular, he aggressively repurchased his stock, eventually buying in over 90 percent of Teledyne's shares; he avoided dividends, emphasized cash flow over reported earnings, ran a famously decentralized organization, and never split the company's stock, which for much of the 1970s and 1980s was the highest priced on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). He was known as "the Sphinx" for his reluctance to speak with either analysts or journalists, and he never once appeared on the cover of Fortune magazine.

Singleton was an iconoclast and the idiosyncratic path he chose to follow caused much comment and consternation on Wall Street and in the business press. It turned out that he was right to ignore the skeptics. The long-term returns of his better-known peers were generally mediocre-averaging only 11% per annum, a small improvement over the S&P 500.

Singleton, in contrast, ran Teledyne for almost thirty years, and the annual compound return to his investors was an extraordinary 20.4%. If you had invested a dollar with Singleton in 1963, by 1990, when he retired as chairman in the teeth of a severe bear market, it would have been worth $180. That same dollar invested in a broad group of conglomerates would have been worth only $27, and $15 if invested in the S&P 500. Remarkably, Singleton outperformed the index by over twelve times.

Using our definition of success, Singleton was a greater CEO than Jack Welch. His numbers are simply better: not only were his per share returns higher relative to the market and his peers, but he sustained them over a longer period of time (twenty-eight years versus Welch's twenty) and in a market environment that featured several protracted bear markets.

His success did not stem from Teledyne's owning any unique, rapidly growing businesses. Rather, much of what distinguished Singleton from his peers lay in his mastery of the critical but somewhat mysterious field of capital allocation the process of deciding how to deploy the firm's resources to earn the best possible return for shareholders.

Singleton was a master capital allocator, and his decisions in navigating among these various allocation alternatives differed significantly from the decisions his peers were making and had an enormous positive impact on long-term returns for his shareholders. Specifically, Singleton focused Teledyne's capital on selective acquisitions and a series of large share repurchases. He was restrained in issuing shares, made frequent use of debt, and did not pay a dividend until the late 1980s. In contrast, the other conglomerates pursued a mirror-image allocation strategy—actively issuing shares to buy companies, paying dividends, avoiding share repurchases, and generally using less debt. In short, they deployed a different set of tools with very different results.

Singleton left behind an extraordinary record, dwarfing both his peers and the market. From 1963 (the first year for which we have reliable stock data) to 1990, when he stepped down as Chairman of Teledyne, Singleton delivered a remarkable 20.4% compound annual return to his shareholders (including spin-offs), compared to an 8.0% return for the S&P 500 over the same period and an 11.6% return for other major conglomerate stocks.

A dollar invested with Henry Singleton in 1963 would have been worth $180.94 by 1990, an almost ninefold outperformance versus his peers and a more than twelvefold outperformance versus the S&P 500.

This profile contains a collection of my favorite Henry Singleton quotes, ideas, frameworks, books, and articles. This page is an attempt to collect all of his quotes and wisdom in one place.

On this page:

My Favorite Henry Singleton Quotes

“I don’t believe all this nonsense about market timing.”

“My only plan is to keep coming to work every day. I like to steer the boat each day rather than plan ahead way into the future.”

“I know a lot of people have very strong and definite plans that they’ve worked out on all kinds of things, but we’re subject to a tremendous number of outside influences and the vast majority of them cannot be predicted. So my idea is to stay flexible.”

“It’s good to buy a large company with fine businesses when the price is beaten down over worry.…”

“There are tremendous values in the stock market, but in buying stocks, not entire companies. Buying companies tends to raise the purchase price too high.”

“Tendering at the premiums required today would hurt, not help, our return on equity, so we won’t do it.”

“After we acquired a number of businesses we reflected on aspects of business. Our conclusion was that the key was cash flow.”

“Our attitude toward cash generation and asset management came out of our own thought process. It is not copied.”

“To sell something to lift the price of the stock is not thinking correctly.”

“We build for the long term.”

“All new projects should return at least 20% on total assets.”

“Our quarterly earnings will jiggle.”

“Teledyne is like a living plant with our companies as the different branches and each one is putting out new branches and growing, so no one is too significant.”

“A steel company might think it is competing with other steel companies. But we are competing with all other companies.”

Conglomerate in the 1960s

Conglomerates, companies with many, unrelated business units, were the Internet stocks of their day. Taking advantage of their stratospheric stock prices, they grew by voraciously and often indiscriminately acquiring businesses in a wide range of industries.

These purchases initially brought higher profits, which led to still higher stock prices that were then used to buy more companies. Most conglomerates built up large corporate headquarters staffs in the belief that they could find and exploit synergies across their disparate companies, and they actively courted Wall Street and the press in order to boost their stock. Their halcyon days, however, came to an abrupt end in the late 1960s when the largest of them (ITT, Litton Industries, and so on) began to miss earnings estimates and their stock prices fell precipitously.

The conventional wisdom today is that conglomerates are an inefficient form of corporate organization, lacking the agility and focus of "pure play" companies. It was not always so—for most of the 1960s, conglomerates enjoyed lofty price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios and used the currency of their high-priced stock to engage in a prolonged frenzy of acquisition. During this heady period, there was significantly less competition for acquisitions than today (private equity firms did not yet exist), and the price to buy control of an operating company (measured by its P/E ratio) was often materially less than the multiple the acquirer traded for in the stock market, providing a compelling logic for acquisitions.

Henry Singleton’s Teledyne Strategy

  • Took advantage of the high P/E multiple on conglomerates, the tech stocks of their day, to acquire small companies using Teledyne’s stock. All but two acquisitions were done using Teledyne’s stock, much of which was newly issued—expanding the company’s total share count.
  • Once this high multiple vanished, Teledyne made no other acquisitions and laid off their deal team. They then switched to focus completely on bottom-line free cash flow generation—shunning any focus on top-line earnings growth.
  • As Teledyne’s multiple fell further, Henry Single used the cash that Teledyne’s companies produced to acquire Teledyne’s stock aggressively. As Munger said, “No one has ever bought in shared as aggressively.” These stock purchases produced an incredible 42% compound annual return.
  • Henry Singleton became the first CEO to invest the vast majority (77%) of Teledyne’s insurance portfolios in public equities. He also embraced an incredibly concentrated approach to investing, allocating over 70% of this equity portfolios in just 5 companies.
  • Finally, Teledyne pioneered the use of spin-offs. In the words of longtime board member Fayez Sarofim, Singleton believed “there was a time to conglomerate and a time to deconglomerate.” Teledyne spun off their first company, Argonaut, in 1986.

Henry Singleton’s Approach to Acquisitions

Singleton took full advantage of this extended arbitrage opportunity to develop a diversified portfolio of businesses, and between 1961 and 1969, he purchased 130 companies in industries ranging from aviation electronics to specialty metals and insurance. All but two of these companies were acquired using Teledyne's pricey stock.

Singleton's approach to acquisitions, however, differed from that of other conglomerateurs. He did not buy indiscriminately, avoiding turnaround situations, and focusing instead on profitable, growing companies with leading market positions, often in niche markets. As Jack Hamilton, who ran Teledyne's specialty metals division, summarized his business to me, "We specialized in high-margin products that were sold by the ounce, not the ton." Singleton was a very disciplined buyer, never paying—more than twelve times earnings and purchasing most companies at significantly lower multiples. This compares to the high P/E multiple on Teledyne's stock, which ranged from a low of 20 to a high of 50 over this period.

In 1967, in his largest acquisition to date, Singleton acquired Vasco Metals for $43 million and elevated its president, George Roberts, to the role of president of Teledyne, taking the titles of CEO and chairman for himself. Roberts had been Singleton's roommate at the Naval Academy, where he had been admitted at age sixteen as the youngest freshman in the school's history (before both he and Singleton transferred due to Depression-era tuition aid cuts). Roberts also had a scientific background, having graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a PhD in metallurgy before holding a series of executive positions at various specialty metals companies, eventually joining Vasco in the early 1960s as president.

Once Roberts joined the company, Singleton began to remove himself from operations, freeing up the majority of his time to focus on strategic and capital allocation issues.

Shortly thereafter, Singleton became the first of the conglomerateurs to stop acquiring. In mid-1969, with the multiple on his stock falling and acquisition prices rising, he abruptly dismissed his acquisition team. Singleton, as a disciplined buyer, realized that with a lower P/E ratio, the currency of his stock was no longer attractive for acquisitions. From this point on, the company never made another material purchase and never issued another share of stock.

The effectiveness of this acquisition strategy was astounding. Over its first ten years as a public company, Teledyne's earnings per share (EPS) grew an astonishing sixty-four-fold, while shares outstanding grew less than fourteen times, resulting in significant value creation for shareholders.

Henry Singleton’s Focus on Decentralization

In contrast to peers like Thornton and Harold Geneen at ITT, Singleton and Roberts eschewed the then trendy concepts of "integration" and "synergy" and instead emphasized extreme decentralization, breaking the company into its smallest component-parts and driving accountability and managerial responsibility as far down into the organization as possible. At headquarters, there were fewer than fifty people in a company with over forty thousand total employees; and no human resource, investor relations, or business development departments. Ironically, the most successful conglomerate of the era was actually the least conglomerate-like in its operations.

This decentralization fostered an objective, apolitical culture at Teledyne. Several former company presidents mentioned this refreshing lack of politics—managers who made their numbers did well; those who did not, moved on. As one told me, "No one worried who Henry was having lunch with."

Henry Singleton’s Pivot to Free Cash Flow Generation

Once the acquisition engine had slowed in 1969, Roberts and Singleton turned their attention to the company's existing operations. In another departure from conventional wisdom, Singleton eschewed reported earnings, the key metric on Wall Street at the time, running his company instead to optimize free cash flow. He and his CFO, Jerry Jerome, devised a unique metric that they termed the Teledyne return, which by averaging cash flow and net income for each business unit, emphasized cash generation and became the basis for bonus compensation for all business unit general managers. As he once told Financial World magazine, "If anyone wants to follow Teledyne, they should get used to the fact that our quarterly earnings will jiggle. Our accounting is set to maximize cash flow, not reported earnings." Not a quote you're likely to hear from the typical Wall Street-focused Fortune 500 CEO today.
Singleton and Roberts quickly improved margins and dramatically reduced working capital at Teledyne's operations, generating significant cash in the process. The results can be seen in the consistently high return on assets for Teledyne's operating businesses, which averaged north of 20 percent throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Warren Buffett's partner, Charlie Munger, describes these extraordinary results as "miles higher than anybody else… utterly ridiculous."

The net result of these initiatives was that, starting in 1970, the company generated remarkably consistent profitability across a wide variety of market conditions. This influx of cash was sent to headquarters to be allocated by Singleton The decisions he made in deploying this capital were, not surprisingly, highly unusual (and effective).

Packard Bell: A Rare Misstep
One division that did not meet Singleton's exacting standards was the Packard Bell television set manufacturing business, and it is interesting to see how he and Roberts handled this rare underperforming business unit. When they realized that Packard Bell had a permanent competitive disadvantage relative to its lower-cost Japanese competitors and could no longer earn acceptable returns, they immediately closed it, becoming the first American manufacturer to exit the industry (all the others followed over the next decade).

Henry Singleton’s Pivot to Share Buybacks

In early 1972, with his cash balance growing and acquisition multiples still high, Singleton placed a call from a midtown Manhattan phone booth to one of his board members, the legendary venture capitalist Arthur Rock (who would later back both Apple and Intel). Singleton began: "Arthur, I've been thinking about it and our stock is simply too cheap. I think we can earn a better return buying our shares at these levels than by doing almost anything else. I'd like to announce a tender—what do you think?" Rock reflected a moment and said, "I like it."

With those words, one of the seminal moments in the history of capital allocation was launched. Starting with that 1972 tender and continuing for the next twelve years, Singleton went on an unprecedented share repurchasing spree that had a galvanic effect on Teledyne's stock price while also almost single-handedly overturning long-held Wall Street beliefs.

To say Singleton was a pioneer in the field of share repurchases is to dramatically understate the case. It is perhaps more accurate to describe him as the Babe Ruth of repurchases, the towering, Olympian figure from the early history of this branch of corporate finance. Prior to the early 1970s, stock buybacks were uncommon and controversial. The conventional wisdom was that repurchases signaled a lack of internal investment opportunity, and they were thus regarded by Wall Street as a sign of weakness.Singleton ignored this orthodoxy, and between 1972 and 1984, in eight separate tender offers, he bought back an astonishing 90 percent of Teledyne's outstanding shares. As Munger says, "No one has ever bought in shares as aggressively."

Singleton believed repurchases were a far more tax-efficient method for returning capital to shareholders than dividends, which for most of his tenure were taxed at very high rates. Singleton believed buying stock at attractive prices was self-catalyzing, analogous to coiling a spring that at some future point would surge forward to realize full value, generating exceptional returns in the process. These repurchases provided a useful capital allocation benchmark, and whenever the return from purchasing his stock looked attractive relative to other investment opportunities, Singleton tendered for his shares.

Repurchases became popular in the 1990s and have frequently been used by CEOs in recent years to prop up sagging stock prices. Buybacks, however, add value for shareholders only if they are made at attractive prices. Not surprisingly, Singleton bought extremely well, generating an incredible 42% compound annual return for Teledyne's shareholders across the tenders.

These tender offers were in almost every case oversubscribed. Singleton had done the analysis and knew these buybacks were compelling, and with the strength of his conviction always bought all shares offered. These repurchases were very large bets for Teledyne, ranging in size from 4% to an unbelievable 66% of the company's book value at the time they were announced. In all, Singleton spent an incredible $2.5 billion on the buybacks.

From 1971 to 1984, Singleton bought back huge chunks of Teledyne's stock at low P/Es while revenues and net income continued to grow, resulting in an astonishing fortyfold increase in earnings per share.

It's important, however, to recognize that this obsession with repurchases represented an evolution in thinking for Singleton, who, earlier in his career when he was building Teledyne, had been an active and highly effective issuer of stock.

Great investors (and capital allocators) must be able to both sell high and buy low. The average price-to-earnings ratio for Teledyne's stock issuances was over 25. In contrast, the average multiple for his repurchased was under 8.

Henry Singleton’s Concentrated Approach to Investing Within Insurance Portfolios

Singleton had been fascinated by the stock market since his teens.George Roberts told me a story of Singleton on leave in New York during World War II standing at the window of a brokerage firm for hours, watching the scroll of stock prices go by on ticker tape.

In the mid-1970s, Singleton finally had an opportunity to act on this lifelong fascination when he assumed direct responsibility for investing the stock portfolios at Teledyne's insurance subsidiaries during a severe bear market with P/E ratios at their lowest levels since the Depression. In the area of portfolio management, as with acquisitions, operations, and repurchases, Singleton developed an idiosyncratic approach with excellent results.

a significant contrarian move, he aggressively reallocated the assets in these insurance portfolios, increasing the total equity allocation from 10 percent in 1975 to a remarkable 77 percent by 1981. Singleton's approach to implementing this dramatic portfolio shift was even more unusual. He invested over 70 percent of the combined equity portfolios in just five companies, with an incredible 25 percent allocated to one company (his former employer, Litton Industries). This extraordinary portfolio concentration (a typical mutual fund owns over one hundred stocks) caused consternation on Wall Street, where many observers thought Singleton was preparing for a new round of acquisitions.

Singleton had no such intention, but it is instructive to look more closely at how he invested these portfolios. His top holdings were invariably companies he knew well (including smaller conglomerates like Curtiss-Wright and large energy and insurance companies like Texaco and Aetna), whose P/E ratios were at or near record lows at the time of his investment. As Charlie Munger said of Singleton's investment approach, "Like Warren and me, he was comfortable with concentration and bought only a few things that he understood well."

Henry Singleton’s Embrace of Spin-Offs

Singleton was a pioneer in the use of spin-offs, which he believed would both simplify succession issues at Teledyne (by reducing the company's complexity) and unlock the full value of the company's large insurance operations for shareholders. In the words of longtime board member Fayez Sarofim, Singleton believed "there was a time to conglomerate and a time to deconglomerate." The time for deconglomeration finally arrived in 1986 with the debut spin-off of Argonaut, the company's worker's compensation insurer.

Next, in 1990, Singleton spun off Unitrin, the company's largest insurance operation, with Jerry Jerome as CEO. This was a significant move as Unitrin accounted for the majority of Teledyne's enterprise value at that time. It has had excellent returns since going public under the leadership of Jerome and his successor, Dick Vie.

Starting in the mid-to-late 1980s, Teledyne's non-insurance operations slowed in the face of a cyclical downturn in the energy and specialty metals markets and fraud charges at its defense business. In 1987, at a time when both acquisition and stock prices (including his own) were at historic highs, Singleton concluded that he had no better, higher-returning options for deploying the company's cash flow, and declared the company's first dividend in twenty-six years as a public company. This was a seismic event for longtime Teledyne observers, signaling the arrival of a new phase in the company's history.

Henry Singleton’s Personal Strategy

One of the most important decisions any CEO makes is how he spends his time—specifically, how much time he spends in three essential areas: management of operations, capital allocation, and investor relations. Henry Singleton's approach to time management was, not surprisingly, very different from peers like Tex Thornton and Harold Geneen and very similar to his fellow outsider CEOs.

As he told Financial World magazine in 1978, "I don't reserve any day-to-day responsibilities for myself, so I don't get into any particular rut. I do not define my job in any rigid terms but in terms of having the freedom to do whatever seems to be in the best interests of the company at any time." Singleton eschewed detailed strategic plans, preferring instead to retain flexibility and keep options open. As he once explained at a Teledyne annual meeting, "I know a lot of people have very strong and definite plans that they've worked out on all kinds of things, but we're subject to a tremendous number of outside influences and the vast majority of them cannot be predicted. So my idea is to stay flexible." In a rare interview with a Business Week reporter, he explained himself more simply: "My only plan is to keep coming to work. I like to steer the boat each day rather than plan ahead way into the future.”

Unlike conglomerate peers such as Thornton or Geneen or Gulf & Western's colorful Charles Bluhdorn, Singleton did not court Wall Street analysts or the business press. In fact, he believed investor relations was an inefficient use of time, and simply refused to provide quarterly earnings guidance or appear at industry conferences. This was highly unconventional behavior at a time when his more accommodating peers were often on the cover of the top business magazines.

Henry Singleton’s Prowess at Buying Back Teledyne’s Stock

Even in a book filled with CEOs who were aggressive in buying back stock, Singleton is in a league of his own. Given his voracious appetite for Teledyne's shares and the overall high levels of repurchases among the outsider CEOs, it's worth looking a little more closely at Singleton's approach to buybacks, which differed significantly from that of most CEOs today.

Fundamentally, there are two basic approaches to buying back stock. In the most common contemporary approach, a company authorizes an amount of capital (usually a relatively small percentage of the excess cash on its balance sheet) for the repurchase of shares and then gradually over a period of quarters (or sometimes years) buys in stock on the open market. This approach is careful, conservative, and, not coincidentally, unlikely to have any meaningful impact on long-term share values. Let's call this cautious, methodical approach the "straw."

The other approach, the one favored by the CEOs in this book and pioneered by Singleton, is quite a bit bolder. This approach features less frequent and much larger repurchases timed to coincide with low stock prices—typically made within very short periods of time, often via tender offers, and occasionally funded with debt. Singleton, who employed this approach no fewer than eight times, disdained the "straw," preferring instead "suction hose."

Singleton's 1980 share buyback provides an excellent example of his capital allocation acumen. In May of that year, with Teledyne's P/E multiple near an all-time low, Singleton initiated the company's largest tender yet, which was oversubscribed by threefold. Singleton decided to buy all the tendered shares (over 20 percent of shares outstanding), and given the company's strong free cash flow and a recent drop in interest rates, financed the entire repurchase with fixed-rate debt.

Henry Singleton: The Original Warren Buffett

Many of the distinctive tenets of Warren Buffett's unique approach to managing Berkshire Hathaway were first employed by Singleton at Teledyne. In fact, Singleton can be seen as a sort of proto-Buffett, and there are uncanny similarities between these two virtuoso CEOs, as the following list demonstrates.

  • The CEO as investor. Both Buffett and Singleton designed organizations that allowed them to focus on capital allocation, not operations. Both viewed themselves primarily as investors, not managers.
  • Decentralized operations, centralized investment decisions. Both ran highly decentralized organizations with very few employees at corporate and few, if any, intervening layers between operating companies and top management.
Both made all major capital allocation decisions for their companies.
  • Investment philosophy. Both Buffett and Singleton focused their investments in industries they knew well, and were comfortable with concentrated portfolios of public securities.
  • Approach to investor relations. Neither offered quarterly guidance to analysts or attended conferences. Both provided informative annual reports with detailed business unit information.
  • Dividends. Teledyne, alone among conglomerates, didn't pay a dividend for its first twenty-six years. Berkshire has never paid a dividend.
  • Stock splits. Teledyne was the highest-priced issue on the NYSE for much of the 1970s and 1980s. Buffett has never split Berkshire's A shares (which now trade at over $120,000 a share).
  • Significant CEO ownership. Both Singleton and Buffett had significant ownership stakes in their companies (13 percent for Singleton and 30-plus percent for Buffet). They thought like owners because they were owners.
  • Insurance subsidiaries. Both Singleton and Buffett recognized the potential to invest insurance company "float" to create shareholder value and for both companies, insurance was the largest and most important business.
  • The restaurant analogy. Phil Fisher, a famous investor, once compared companies to restaurants—over time through a combination of policies and decisions (analogous to cuisine, prices, and ambiance), they self-select for a certain clientele. By this standard, both Buffett and Singleton intentionally ran highly unusual restaurants that over time attracted like-minded, long-term-oriented customer/shareholders.

Leon Cooperman on Henry Singleton

In a recent interview with Forbes, Leon Cooperman discusses what he learned for Henry Singleton:

FORBES: Is there an investment that you consider your greatest success?

The smartest guy I ever dealt with–it wasn’t my most profitable investment, but it was very profitable–if you go back and look at Forbes in the 1960s, you guys were champions of Henry Singleton at Teledyne. He was the smartest guy I ever worked with; he was a genius, and I made a lot of money betting on him. Forbeswas one of the few magazines that understood his game and wrote him up very favorably, whereas in 1982, BusinessWeek had him pictured on the cover of the magazine as Icarus, the mythical Greek god that flew close to the sun. They had no idea what they were talking about. I first invested in about 1968 and held it 25 years.

FORBES: Who were your investing mentors and what did you learn from them?

: I learned a lot from studying Henry Singleton. He graduated number one in his class at the Naval Academy and got a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at MIT. He was a senior executive at Litton Industries, and in 1958 Tex Thornton, the founder of Litton, promoted Roy Ash into the position of CEO and Singleton left to start Teledyne. From 1958 to 1968, he did 130 acquisitions doing a rollup strategy. He would take his high-multiple conglomerate stock and buy lower-multiple businesses. In 1968, I had lunch with him, and he told me the acquisition game for Teledyne is over. It makes no sense to take undervalued public market stock and pay a private-market value to buy businesses. We’re going to spend our time studying the environment and see what makes sense.

At that time, Harold Geneen at ITT and George Scharffenberger at City Investing kept on pumping out stock to do deals, and they were giving out undervalued stock and paying full value to buy businesses. Singleton understood the fragility of that. Beginning in 1972 and ending in 1984, he had eight self-tender offers and retired 90% of his stock.

He acquired intelligently, he retired his stock brilliantly and in the 1972-73 bear market, when most money managers were selling stocks to buy bonds, he told me that in his view, the high-risk asset in the economy was bonds, not stocks. He went out and bought 28% of Litton Industries, where he was passed over for presidency, 30% of Broadway Glass and 20% of Reiko Chemical—very large, concentrated equity positions that made a fortune for his shareholders—and interest rates went up and he avoided capital losses. Warren Buffett said he was truly brilliant and one of a kind.

See Also

For more, explore lectures, profiles, interviews, and books related to Henry Singleton:

Related Collections

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About the author

Daniel Scrivner is an award-winner designer and angel investor. He's led design work at Apple, Square, and now ClassDojo. He's an early investor in Notion,, and Anduril. He founded Ligature: The Design VC and Outlier Academy. Daniel has interviewed the world’s leading founders and investors including Scott Belsky, Luke Gromen, Kevin Kelly, Gokul Rajaram, and Brian Scudamore.

Last updated
Apr 28, 2024

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