Despite the negativity that sometimes comes with the term hedge fund today, the best investment partnerships have consistently delivered market beating returns for investors. The best investment managers have a way of seeing value where most others do not - usually through intensive research -- and they back it up with a significant financial investment in target companies.
Today, it has become easier not to only follow but also to invest alongside some these highly regarded hedge funds, as managers tend to take ideas to the public arena when necessary. One of the most vocal managers, David Einhorn at Greenlight Capital, was very vocal about his short of Lehman Brothers stock, which ultimately became worthless. Einhorn disclosed his new long position in Apple (AAPL - Get Report) when it was trading at $250 and he went public with his short of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR - Get Report) when it was trading near $100 a share. GMCR shares trade for $20 today.
While Einhorn has made a huge public splash recently, his firm recently made a significant boost in its General Motors (GM - Get Report) position. It's interesting to note that Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) also disclosed a new position in GM in the first quarter of 2012. GM shares have now fallen to a low of $19, compared with $32 this time last year.
Another hedge fund worthy of watching is Bill Ackman's Pershing Square and his position in J.C. Penney (JCP - Get Report) now that those shares have dropped nearly 40% this year. They were recently trading around $21. You can now buy shares at Ackman prices. Overall, Ackman has had great results investing in retail and real estate. Fixing JCP won't be easy or quick, not even for CEO Ron Johnson, who was the genius behind Apple's retailing success. But JCP owns a lot of its real estate, which is a common theme in many of Ackman's real estate ventures.Two other stocks prominently featured in some of the better-known hedge funds are Yahoo! (YHOO - Get Report) and Lowe's (LOW - Get Report). Daniel Loeb at Third Point has made no secret of his disdain for the Yahoo's board and its management. His efforts have gained traction: Yahoo! now has a new CEO and is looking to monetize its assets.