Ralph Wagner was born in Chicago in 1933 during the peak of the Great Depression. He studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he graduated in 1955. His five years of business with the insurance was the first job before he conjoined with Harris Associates in Chicago. He was in charge for security analysis and he was a portfolio manager. After founding the Acorn Fund in 1977, he was the portfolio manager and the president of the company at which position he stayed until 2003. He retired after that. In the period when he was the head of Acorn, as S&P 500 Index had a yearly growth of 12.1%, Acorn had 16.3 % return at the same time.
Ralph Wagner trading style
He was a simple investor. His goal was to maintain a long-term possession of a small company that was financially strong with good managers that knew their job. He believed in long term investing, five to ten years. In order to find a small company that had good managers who ran the company well, he would scan the company in details, and he wouldn’t leave anything unchecked about the company. He needed to have a good insight in the company in order to grade it for himself.
An example of his style would be this: if he was to make money from the car industry, he wouldn’t be investing in selling cars; he would be investing in the companies selling spare parts.
He was a keen researcher when investing a company. He was eager to see that the company he would invest in had a good management, and all other aspects that define a good company. When everything he would want the company to be like, the price would be the decisive. A good and attractive price was always an important parameter for him. As he explained, a good company doesn’t necessarily mean a good stock.