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December 16, 2009

News & Opinion: The Billion Dollar Mistake

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 7:39 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

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How much can a person learn through other people’s mistakes? Plenty, especially when those people are successful billionaire investors. Author and a successful investor himself Stephen L. Weiss in his book The Billion Dollar Mistake reviews 11 cases where highly knowledgeable and wealthy investors (read: billionaires) make major gaffes costing them and fellow investors huge amounts of money. How could this happen? How could they each ignore basic investing protocol creating these monumental blunders after a career of success? Well, we ultimately learn even billionaires are human too. 

Weiss creates a fascinating look at these cases with up close narrative reporting. In some instances the famous investors themselves review their mistakes and provide a surprising candor on how and why they failed. You almost feel like an eavesdropper in a closed door meeting learning untold secrets. Who knew investing could be so riveting! 

Towards the end of each chapter the author provides excellent timelines summarizing the chain of events (which I found myself skipping to first - then back to the start). At the end of each case he lists clear explanations of what went wrong and concise look at what we can learn from that. These are the investing mistakes that everyday investors can become aware of and avoid making. We realize of course that our investments will be about 10 zeros less than theirs, but the lessons learned can still apply just as well.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.