I founded Stansberry Research, the forerunner of Stansberry Holdings, in the winter of 1999, with a borrowed laptop computer.
My “office” was the kitchen table of a cheap, 3rd floor walkup apartment in one of Baltimore’s most notoriously violent neighborhoods. I lacked virtually everything most people would have assumed I’d need to be successful. I had zero capital. I had no office space. I’d never worked for an investment bank or even been a stockbroker. Beyond having access to the SEC’s enormous database of financial statements and annual reports, I had no special insights into corporate America.
I did, however, know two things that most investors at the time did not know.
I knew that the Internet was going to change the world’s economy more profoundly than any new technological innovation since the widespread introduction of electricity. And I knew that “Wall Street” – the leading investment banks – were doing a remarkably bad job of covering both the opportunities and the risks associated with this economic revolution.
It was, for example, clear to me because so much fiber optic cable had been laid along our country’s railroads and across the oceans, long distance prices would continue to decline – all the way to zero. Thus, in the first issue of my first investment newsletter, I accurately predicted the demise of AT&T, which at the time was one of the highest rated and most widely held stocks in America.
What I lacked in capital and experience and I made up for with good ideas and a passion for sharing those ideas with investors.
That’s still what we do today.
Our business is very simple to understand. We are in the business of figuring out big ideas. We strive to uncover and understand the biggest changes occurring in the financial markets, in the world’s major economies, and in the world’s leading business sectors. Then, unlike a hedge fund or a family office, rather than trading on these insights ourselves, we do our best to make sure that our subscribers are able to capitalize on these insights. Our goal is to make sure that our subscribers have the information we would most want to have, if our roles were reversed.
In the course of my career, I have found just a handful of big ideas.
I warned investors as early as 2002 that GE was a house of cards and that it would collapse in an Enron-like implosion of bad debt. At the time, GE was the most valuable publicly traded company in the world.
I wrote an entire series of “Letters from the Chairman of General Motors,” which accurately explained why GM was doomed to bankruptcy beginning in 2006. (The company filed for bankruptcy in 2009.)
I warned that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were “zeros” in June of 2008, shortly before both firms collapsed, despite public officials telling Congress that they were “adequately capitalized.”
And, perhaps most importantly, as early as 2006, I explained that the idea of “Peak Oil” was pure hokum and that, inevitably, higher prices for hydrocarbons would fuel innovation and new discoveries of oil.
As early as 2010 I was covering the Texas shale boom and predicting that U.S. oil production would hit a new all-time high before the end of the decade. I was also warning that oil prices would fall below $40 a barrel as a result. As everyone knows, U.S. oil production reached new highs in 2016 and the price of oil collapsed.
– How could anyone in finance have missed the fact that GM couldn’t make enough money selling cars and was borrowing to pay the interest on its existing debts and its pension obligations – something that was completely unsustainable?
– How could anyone in finance have missed the fact that Fannie and Freddie were insuring subprime mortgages that were certain to contain hundreds of billions in losses?
– How could anyone in the oil business have missed the thousands and thousands of new wells that were being drilled in Texas and that were producing huge volumes of new oil – so much oil that trucks had to be used to cart it off because there weren’t enough trains and pipelines!
These stories were all so big and their implications were all so obvious that it seems hard to believe now, looking back, that our reporting on these stories was extremely controversial at the time.
So… why were we able to see these facts clearly, even when others couldn’t?
I think that’s because what you believe about the world often depends on where you sit. It’s very difficult to be objective about the hand that’s feeding you.
GE was a major issuer of corporate debt and paid millions and millions in fees to Wall Street’s biggest banks. It also owned the major financial cable channel, CNBC. Which financial institution could go on the record as saying the company was another Enron in the making?
GM and its local dealers were the largest buyers advertising in the United States. Virtually every newspaper and every media network needed GM to buy advertising to maintain budgets. Which media outlet could afford to report critically about their management or their declining financial results?
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac sit squarely in the center of the entire global financial system. Who could warn of their impending collapse without risking a global financial panic? Like the chairman of the European Central bank said during the financial crisis, when a problem is really serious, “you lie.”
But at Stansberry, we didn’t lie. We didn’t have to.
In the world as it is evolving today, virtually every other form of media has some kind of obvious bias that greatly distorts the facts they report. But what investors must have is objectivity. Investors must know the numbers and they must know what they mean, regardless of whether or not that threatens or imperials a politically powerful corporation or a philosophically popular theme.
So, at Stansberry Research, we pioneered a new mode of financial thinking – one that operated independently from Wall Street and the mainstream financial media. We built our business around one key goal: to give our subscribers the information we’d most want if our roles were reversed. To do so requires a dedication to publishing the facts we uncover without fear or favoritism. This is the role of the free press in our society. But it’s an obligation virtually every other publisher seems to have forgotten.
So, we didn’t earn commissions from the investments we recommended. We didn’t even enter them ourselves until our subscribers had had plenty of time to act on our recommendations. We didn’t sell our soul to advertisers. We just told the truth, and made our readers money.
Then, in my opinion, we got too big.
Over my 25 years at the helm of Stansberry, the company grew from a kitchen table to a massive corporate office. Along with that growth came meetings, quotas, quality control – and so much admin work that I couldn’t focus on what mattered most to me: my readers.
So, I “retired” to my rural farm in Maryland – and started Porter & Co. in my tractor barn.
At Porter & Co., I do the same things I’ve always done. I work side by side with extraordinary financial analysts. I find big stories that the mainstream financial media can’t, or won’t, cover. And most importantly, I retain the independence to be able to see the world clearly and to speak the truth about what I perceive, regardless of the consequences.
I just do these things with less distraction. And I do them, as always, for you.
Too many people in our industry — which I helped build — have got the game wrong. They sell flavor-of-the-month ideas, hopping from one thing to the next. But true wealth can’t be achieved without patience. As Warren Buffett reminds us: “No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”
My Dad would tell you the same thing. He worked for Coca-Cola, one of Warren Buffett’s “forever” companies, as an ordinary employee. But Coca-Cola offered employee-matched contributions, and over the years, Dad contributed as much as he could. That investment compounded over time. He was able to buy us a second home in the mountains, send me and my brother to college, and eventually retire.
That’s the kind of mindset I want for you – long-term, generational wealth that you can buy and hold forever, and pass onto your own family one day.
And here at Porter & Co., I’ll continue to do my very best to find those opportunities for you.