This week and next, TheStreet and RealMoney will be exploring the aftermath of Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy filing and the ensuing market chaos it brought to a head almost a year ago. This story originally appeared Thursday on RealMoney. Click here for a free trial, and enjoy incisive commentary all day, every day.Of all the historical and cataclysmic events that have occurred in U.S. history, I don't believe the Lehman Brothers collapse will ever evoke the "Where were you when?" question that is commonly asked in the years following a major happening. While it was a monumental event, and perhaps we still can't comprehend its significance, it did not happen overnight, it was not sudden and it was not exactly a shock. Perhaps the lingering surprise we feel one year later is simply due to the lack of some sort of bailout for Lehman given the current atmosphere where seemingly nothing is allowed to fail on its own. As a value investor I tend to see market events in the context of how they create opportunity. Granted, the Lehman collapse went well beyond the simplicity of an opportunity creator and is in hindsight a frightening event. Perhaps I didn't realize at the time just how close we were to economic collapse. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to go back and see what I was writing about in my RealMoney columns just before and after the Lehman collapse. Perhaps I'd find a hint of fear or a glimpse of emotion regarding the state of affairs leading up to and following the collapse. Not surprisingly, there were few if any hints of any such thoughts. Rather my columns reflected the musings of a dedicated value investor, perhaps oblivious to the significance of what was occurring around him, content to seek and find value in what appeared to be a growing opportunity set. Relative to the markets, the results weren't bad either. Below is a review of the names I featured in columns while Lehman was imploding, along with returns since the date of each column, and the corresponding benchmarks return. (Wherever possible, the benchmark used was an index of which the given company is a member).
Lennox International ( LII), Aug. 21, 2008: The presumption was that this provider of fireplace heating equipment would benefit from rising oil prices. Lennox had one negative quarter (March) and shares are down about 5% since the column ran. Nothing to write home about, except that the S&P 400 Midcap Index is down about 19% in the same time frame. Currently trading at 25 times trailing earnings and 17 times 2010 consensus estimates, Lennox, which yields 1.6%, is not as attractive as it was last year. OM Group ( OMG), Aug. 27, 2008: This specialty chemical company, which utilizes cobalt as a primary input, looked cheap at 10 times 2009 earnings and was already down more than 40% year-to-date when I wrote this column. But the company began to rack up quarterly losses as the economy worsened and is currently showing a loss for 2009 year-to-date. The picture appears to be brighter for the balance of the year, but it now trades at nearly 18 times 2010 consensus estimates. The balance sheet looks good with $268 million in cash or $8.73 per share and no debt. Shares are down 18% since my column, while the S&P Smallcap Index is down 21%. Deluxe ( DLX), Sept. 3, 2008: Deluxe, the largest provider of paper check-printing services in the U.S. ,was the epitome of a nine-lives company that had fallen on hard times...again, but still had another life or two left. The company still has not had a negative quarter during this recession, yields 6.4%, and trades at 10 times trailing earnings, and 7 times 2010 consensus estimates. Shares are up about 1% including dividends since my column, versus a loss of 18% for the S&P 400. Cresud ( CRESY), Sept. 10, 2008: Shares of Argentine land and farming giant Cresud were down 45% year-to-date when I wrote this column and they actually fell much further -- to $4.67 -- by late October. I'd always been fascinated by this company's assets, which included more than one million acres of land, a sizable cattle herd and significant stakes in a couple of other publicly traded companies. Shares of Cresud have recovered nicely off their lows and are up about 7% since my column vs. a 20% loss for the S&P Smallcap Index. I continue to hold Cresud in my portfolio. Cracker Barrel ( CBRL), Sept. 16, 2008: A longtime favorite of mine because of its great food, interesting concept and real estate portfolio, this was the only post I'd written that alluded to any bad news happening in the markets at the time. Cracker Barrel currently trades at about 10 times 2010 consensus estimates and yields 2.7%. Shares are up about 11% since my post, while the S&P Small Cap Index is down 20%. I continue to hold Cracker Barrel in my portfolio. Tech Data ( TECD), Sept. 17, 2008:-At the time this tech company was a profitable net/net with a $1.5 billion market cap -- not something you see very often. The company has weathered the recession fairly well. Although sales have suffered, Tech Data has made money every quarter and currently trades at about 14 times trailing earnings and 13 times 2011 consensus estimates. Shares are up more than 39% since my column, vs. a loss of 10% for the S&P 400. There you have it. If nothing else, this is proof that value investors are indeed a rare breed, often unfazed by what's going on around them -- sometimes to our detriment, sometimes not.