‘The Great Minds of Investing’

Publications — May 22, 2015

Design for a book featuring portraits and profiles of the top investors in the world.

The first time Michael O'Brien photographed Warren Buffett (for Esquire) in 1988 it changed his life. From that moment on the photographer became a devoted student of value investing, Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway, and a super fan of the “Oracle of Omaha.” He even named his dog Buffett. Now O’Brien’s portraits and William Green’s profiles of the top investors in the world have been published in The Great Minds of Investing, a new book designed and produced by partner DJ Stout and designer Barrett Fry in Pentagram’s Austin office.

The Great Minds of Investing, one of the first books of its kind, was the brainchild of Hendrik Leber, who is the founder and managing partner in ACATIS Investment, a German asset management firm based in Frankfurt. Leber found a co-conspirator in O’Brien and commissioned the value investment enthusiast to photograph 33 of the preeminent investors of our time. O’Brien traveled all over the U.S. and Europe to capture his elusive subjects on film. His large-format, black-and-white portraits, formal and dignified, show the confident demeanor of the profession—and a lot of nice suits.

“Investors, particularly the top tier of the profession, are busy and very private," says Stout. “The majority of these guys are not looking for exposure. Michael had to be diligent, and extremely patient, to get these rare, one-of-a-kind portraits.”

O’Brien’s portraits are accompanied by insightful profiles written or edited by William Green. Green, who lives in New York, is a seasoned business journalist and has written for many publications in the U.S. and Europe, including Time, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, The New Yorker, The (London) Spectator, and The Economist. Over two decades, Green has interviewed many legendary investors, returning again and again to one overarching question: What qualities and insights enable this elite group to achieve enduring success? In his interviews and profiles for this book, Green explores the combination of talent, temperament, and powerful principles that the greatest investors possess.

Those lessons are both practical and profound. When Green asked Irvin Kahn for the most valuable piece of financial advice he could share, the 108-year-old replied: “Safety. Considering the downside is the single most important thing an investor can do.” Sadly Kahn, who was photographed by O’Brien on February 12th, 2014 in New York, passed away before the book was published. Francis Chou speaks of detaching oneself from the crowd, warning: “If you want to participate in the market all the time, then it’s a mug’s game and you’re going to lose.” Warren Buffett, photographed again by O’Brien in 2013 says this in the book: “My dad believed in me. What I basically got from my father is unconditional love. Unconditional love is huge in this world. Whatever I did, he was all for it. It didn’t matter how much money I made or anything like that. It was just: ‘Do your best in whatever you take on.’”

O’Brien’s stately portraits are complimented with Stout and Fry’s spare layouts and large graphic, typographic moments featuring the elegant typeface Hoefler Titling, a modern classic designed by Jonathan Hoefler in 1991. The oversized, “coffee-table” volume, published by the German publisher, FinanzBuch Verlag, made its debut recently at Berkshire Hathaway’s 50th Anniversary shareholders weekend in Omaha.

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