This Book Will Make You Rich

By Sophia Banay | Boston Magazine |

That is, if you can score a copy. Why readers are paying big for insight into one of Boston’s top moneymakers.

Even before the economy went sour, Seth Klarman was a guy worth studying. He’s the founder of Boston hedge-fund firm the Baupost Group, whose oldest fund has risen in value by more than 6,000 percent. And his work is especially valuable now, because unlike so-called growth investors, Klarman’s a value guy—someone who deals in stocks less affected by recession.

But Klarman prefers to keep his profits up and his voice down, so stock pickers and business students are desperately seeking other ways to get insight into his work—and that’s leading many to lay out thousands for an out-of-print treatise he penned in 1991 called Margin of Safety: Risk-Averse Value Investing Strategies for the Thoughtful Investor. Used copies sell on for as much as $2,500; some book dealers even hawk photocopied versions. "There’s speculation in the hedge fund community that Klarman gave away too many of his secrets," says an equity researcher at a New York investment bank, who spent a month searching in vain for an affordable copy.

Klarman has declined to talk about the book, but he’s likely not impressed
by its acolytes. As the title indicates, the tome promotes a philosophy he calls "margin of safety," which means acquiring holdings at a significant discount to their underlying value. That’s quite the opposite of paying top dollar for an old book, no matter how much wisdom it contains.

For the more frugal-minded, there’s another option for studying up on Klarmanomics. Harvard’s Baker Library has three copies of his book, one of which is available to visitors; the others are for students only. (The book "has always been popular," says Jacqueline Harrington, a library assistant at Baker; when City Journal called, there was a 14-person waiting list for it.) The Boston Public Library has a copy, too. MIT’s Dewey Library also had one, but it’s missing. We hope that’s not because someone, ahem, took it at a significant discount to its underlying value.

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