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108 year-old investor Irving Kahn increases BlackBerry stake

Irving Kahn made his first trade -a short of a copper miner- in the summer of 1929.
Irving Kahn made his first trade -a short of a copper miner- in the summer of 1929.

Update: Bloomberg is today reporting that Irving Kahn passed away February 24th at his Manhattan apartment.

The man who made his first trade in the months before the 1929 market crash thinks BlackBerry will stand the test of time.

108 year-old Irving Kahn, chairman of Kahn Brothers Group, recently upped the firms position in BlackBerry by 250,000 shares to a total of 450,000 shares.

While some will no doubt chuckle at the perceived tidiness of an over-the-hill investor investing in what many regard as an over-the-hill tech play, it’s clear what Kahn sees in the beleaguered device maker, and that’s value.

Kahn boasts a value investing pedigree that few, if any, can match. He was a teaching assistant to the father of the discipline, Ben Graham, at Columbia Business School. Students who passed through that class include Charles Brandes and Warren Buffett.

Today, Kahn Brothers manages about a billion dollars, and Irving’s son Thomas -a spritely 71- is the firm’s president. Its top holdings include The New York Times and Pfizer.

In late 2012, the day before his 107th birthday, Kahn was profiled by the Wall Street Journal, which noted his ongoing work ethic.

“Discipline has been a key for Mr. Kahn. He still works five days a week, slacking off only on the occasional Friday. He reads voraciously, including at least two newspapers every day and numerous magazines and books, especially about science. His abiding goal, he told me, is “to know much more about the stock I’m buying than the man who’s selling does.”

Since BlackBerry’s slide from a high July, 2007 high of $241.90 to lows in the six and seven dollar range, several noted value investors have kicked the tires on the stock. But Donald Yacktman and Mario Gabelli have recently sold their entire position in BlackBerry, leaving Charles Brandes, who at last count owned just 23,320 shares, and Joel Greenblatt, with just 28,480 shares, among the Graham disciples left.

Of course, the company’s largest shareholder remains Fairfax Financial chairman Prem Watsa, who owns more than 10% of BlackBerry. At the recent Fairfax AGM, Watsa said he was encouraged by the progress made by new CEO John Chen.

“John, in five months, has done so many changes. We’re very impressed,” he said.

Below: a 106 year-old Khan talks to CNN…

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About The Author /

Cantech Letter founder and editor Nick Waddell has lived in five Canadian provinces and is proud of his country's often overlooked contributions to the world of science and technology. Waddell takes a regular shift on the Canadian media circuit, making appearances on CTV, CBC and BNN, and contributing to publications such as Canadian Business and Business Insider.
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