Sunday Briefing: On Alibaba, Jim Ling and the LTV conglomerate, and how a chess master concentrates

Sunday Briefing: On Alibaba, Jim Ling and the LTV conglomerate, and how a chess master concentrates

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Welcome to the Sunday Briefing newsletter where I share some of the interesting lessons in life, business, and investing that I’ve come across during the week.

Latest on Junto

Today, I finally published the 8,500-word write-up of Alibaba. Like my other company write-ups and anything related to the specific investment decisions I make, it’s restricted to Junto members. You can learn more about the Junto membership and the additional benefits of joining the greatest value investing membership on the internet here.

What I’ve been reading

Jim Ling and the massive LTV conglomerate. One from the archives of 1982 about Jim Ling, an eccentric businessman with little managerial experience who ran his massive LTV conglomerate into meltdown. The article was recommended by Warren Buffett as a good financial lesson in his 2014 annual letter to shareholders.

Ling’s plan bewildered some of his associates and much of the financial community, but there was little arguing with his success. Those who know Ling well say he’s always been hard to follow because of the lightning-like pace of his thinking. “He does take a lot for granted, and he skips a lot,” says Jim Lawson. “When he’s conceptualizing, he can lose people in a minute.” Securities lawyer William Tinsley, a Ling associate since the LTV days, recalls meetings in which directors would nod in apparent understanding as Ling outlined another innovative plan. Then, when the meeting broke up, some frustrated director would turn to Tinsley or someone else with a reputation for deciphering Ling: “Damn it, what did he say? Explain it to me.”

How a chess master concentrates.

“My search to do the right thing feels fundamentally aesthetic in nature… Good moves have the qualities of truth and beauty. They are discoveries of how things are, and should be.”

Quote of the week

Jack Ma on the power of the online ecosystem.

“Our philosophy is that we want to be an ecosystem. Our philosophy is to empower others to sell, empower others to service, making sure the other people are more powerful than us. With our technology, our innovation, our partners – 10 million small business sellers – they can compete with Microsoft and IBM.”

A thought

Oftentimes, managing risk down to zero is the biggest risk.

Have a great coming week,
Oliver Sung

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