Killing the Market is a short, fascinating read about the life and career of investor and philanthropist Robert W. Wilson.
Given $ 15,000 from his mother in 1958 as a wedding present (equivalent to about $ 150,000 today) Wilson invested the money. That began a 40-year career in the financial market – playing the stocks – which landed him with a net worth of over $ 800 million before his death in 2013.
Author Roemer McPhee, a Princeton-trained in history, asks the question "How did he do it?" and tries (successfully, I think) to answer it in his book. He dives into the life and work of Wilson in what is a detailed explanation of how Wilson was able to accomplish what no one before or after him has done. How he was able to work the market to his favor, and find, with an almost primal instinct, what markets had a future.
Because I have a limited knowledge of the stock market, some of the terms in this book were a bit over my head, but what I found fascinating was the detailed way McPhee describes each big company that Wilson invested in. For me, it was fun reading the details of how these companies got started – companies I'm familiar with from my childhood.
Wilson bought stock in companies such as Datapoint, Bowmar Instrument, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Atari, and Jordache Jeans before others knew what was going on. He also dabbled in oil when others were selling, and in the airlines industry when it wasn't considered "profitable."
"He always seemed able to spot an innovator early," writes McPhee. "Wilson had almost a sixth sense for self-protection and self-preservation in the market, as an investor."
One of the questions the books asks (and answers), is what do you do with all that money once you have it?
While there isn't much detail about his personal life, we do find out that Wilson was a man very concerned with the welfare of the earth and its inhabitants. He continually "tithed" as he put it, giving to charities and organization throughout his career. When he retired, however, he became a full-time philanthropist, and gave hundreds of millions of dollars away, making him one of the biggest donors in New York City and in the United States. His chief concern was to continue taking care of the earth and the people and animals that lived on our planet. Like the details that McPhee puts in the book about the companies Wilson bought stock in, he also defines the organizations he gave money to, which I found interesting because I've heard of most of these organizations.
The book follows Wilson through to the end of his life: Wilson staying in character until the end.
When I visit New York, now, and I see his name on various buildings or donor plaques, I'll know the story behind the name. I think that's cool.
I believe this book is perfect for anyone interested in investing or playing the market, whether professional or amateur. For the rest of us, it makes an interesting read into the life of a man who changed the lives of many people and many companies in the US.