• Tom Ferree

The Outsiders

Updated: Feb 28

Eight Unconventional CEO’s and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success by William N Thorndike

















These great owner-operators return to owners and shareholders many times greater than their peers or industry averages…over decades.


Tom Murphy and Capital Cities Broadcasting were A Perpetual Motion Machine for Returns. Henry Singleton and Teledyne were An Unconventional Conglomerateur. The Turnaround covers how Bill Anders and General Dynamics did it. John Malone and TCI understood Value Creation in a Fast-Moving Stream. Very helpful perspective for today’s market conditions.


Katherine Graham was the widow who took over The Washington Post. Thinking about a LBO? Excellent chapter on Bill Stiritz and Ralston Purina. Optimizing the Family Firm talks about Dick Smith and General Cinema. Outstanding chapter for executives running their own companies, whether family owned or not. The Investor as CEO. Tough to beat a discussion covering Warren Buffett.

Each was a great capital allocator. They understood they have 5 basic options: invest in existing operations, pay dividends, acquire other businesses, reduce debt, and/or buy back stock.

These CEO’s made money in during good times AND during recessions or downturns in their industries. It didn’t matter what industry they were in, they were consistently wildly successful over decades.


How did they do it? They viewed the 5 basic options as a tool kit. How they combined different options in different markets made the difference. Their companies were not located in primary cities or financial markets. That certainly helped them ignore the “herd” instinct that governs many companies.


A key for each of these CEO’s was that they and their boards had major equity positions in their companies. They shared in the good times and suffered in bad times.

Last is a chapter on the mind set of highly successful executives and companies.

I’ve returned to this book many times over the years for a refresher on a chapter or two.







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