TheStreet Exclusive: The Strange Story of Sid Finkle

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Not many investors know the name Sid Finkle, but the reclusive stockpicker has quietly beaten the S&P 500 index 22 years in a row, far eclipsing the record of 15 straight set by legendary Legg Mason (LM) fund manager Bill Miller.

Furthermore, Finkle has exceeded Wall Street's widely followed benchmark by an average of 4.5 percentage points a year, a Ruthian feat making him perhaps the greatest investor of all time, leaving the likes of Warren Buffett and Peter Lynch far behind in the dust.

In his first public interview ever, Finkle said he attributes much of his market-beating success to his conscious decision to remain out of Wall Street's spotlight and trade instead from the back porch of his modest home in Hicksville, N.Y. Finkle also told TheStreet about his idiosyncratic trading methods, the financial media and the current state of Wall Street.

TheStreet: The S&P was down slightly in the first quarter. What's your outlook for the rest of the year?

Finkle: Here's the thing about the stock market and picking stocks. It's not just a matter of being right. You need to be right at the right time. So when you are talking about the rest of the year, you need to look at the calendar. And that means nine more months.

TheStreet: Are you a bull or a bear over the next nine months?

Finkle: Are those my only choices?

TheStreet: What else is there?

Finkle: Exactly. The biggest problem with Wall Street today, aside from high-frequency trading and Bill Ackman's God complex, is the fact that CNBC and the other so-called financial networks try to box you in. By reducing the choices to "bull" or "bear" they are failing to consider the other options. As a result, individual investors -- not hedge fund managers like me or George Soros -- are the ones ultimately punished due to the lack of options.

TheStreet: What are the options if not bull or bear?

Finkle: What about a lemur? Have you ever tried to box in a lemur?

TheStreet: No. 

Finkle: Precisely. The bear swats down with his claws, signifying a declining market, while the bull gores upward with his horns, denoting a rising market. The lemur, however, has divergent digits on his hands and nails as opposed to claws. Moreover, the lemur has a brain-to-body size ratio smaller than that of anthropoid primates, which is something your Merrill Lynch broker will never, ever tell you.

TheStreet: Is that a statement about the price earnings ratio of the market? Is it smaller than it should be?

Finkle: Let's just say, at these valuations I'm short-term bear, mid-term bull and long-term lemur.

TheStreet: Can we talk about your track record for a second?

Finkle: Which one? My 40-yard dash or pole vault?

TheStreet: You've beaten the S&P 500 index for 22 years in a row and counting. That's better than the previous record of 15 set by Legg Mason portfolio manager Bill Miller. Why is it that the investing world has never heard of you?

Finkle: I never understood the need for these so-called brilliant money managers to publicize their positions. Does it really behoove Carl Icahn to inform the market when he's amassing a position in Herbalife or some other stock? Wouldn't it improve his pricing if he were to remain under the radar and make his purchases covertly? Of course! Nevertheless, he still calls Scott Wapner every day at lunch-time to tell him what he's buying, thereby giving everybody else the opportunity to get in ahead of him.

TheStreet: Or get out.

Finkle: Now you've got it. Icahn, Ackman, Loeb, Tepper...you can't turn on the TV without hearing what they are buying or selling. Perhaps if they shut their mouths once in a while they'd be doing a lot better. David Einhorn, for example, starts yelling about Lehman Brothers and a few months later the place goes out of business and collapses the whole financial world. If he would have just shut his mouth it would have been business as usual and we never would have had to listen to Hank Paulson speak all those times. How painful was that for your average American?

TheStreet: What about Warren Buffett?

Finkle: What about Warren Buffett? He's no different. He was doing great before he started holding these massive investor days in Omaha. Now he's got so much money he literally can't do anything with it. He's literally giving it to Bill Gates to give away. Bill Gates has plenty of money but still Buffett is giving him his billions. Does that make sense to you?

TheStreet: Bill Gross made a big splash last year moving from Pimco to Janus (JNS). Do you think all the publicity he chased in recent years hampered his performance?

Finkle: Simple lesson there. Never confuse a mustache and a bull market.

TheStreet: Who is doing it right then? Other than you, that is?

Finkle: Peter Lynch did it right. He got everybody to invest with him and then got out right before the Internet bubble popped. Talk about perfect timing. And he was smart enough not to make a comeback, too. That never works. Who else? Bernie Madoff. Say what you want about him, but he beat the market for decades and nobody knew it until he made the decision to call it quits.

TheStreet: Why are you going public now? You could have remained under the radar as well and just kept adding to your fortune.

Finkle: I don't need Ken Griffin's wife's money, Jeff Gundlach's wardrobe or Leon Cooperman's combover to feel complete. I've made more than my share. I feel it's time to give back. Reveal some of the lessons I've learned to a new generation. Remember that the stock market is a zero sum game. So for every sum I take in, I'm giving zero back. I don't want that to be my legacy.

TheStreet: Finally, if you weren't a money manager, what would your dream job be?

Finkle: A pitcher for the New York Mets.

TheStreet: Why is that?

Finkle: You figure it out.

Additional reporting for this piece was done by George Plimpton.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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