Saturday, October 2, 2010

Jean Marie Eveillard

Jean Marie Eveillard has 40 years of experience in the financial industry and oversees $35 billion. Jean Marie is one of the most respected value investors in the world. His track record and staying power haas been extraordinary. Jean Marie has won many prestigious awards in his career including a Lifetime Achievement Award from Morningstar for building one of the most successful long-term records in the investment business.  In this interview Jean Marie discusses gold at length, as well as gold shares, Austrian vs Keynesian Economics, value investing, lessons from his long career and much more.

First Eagle Funds - Bio
Jean-Marie Eveillard
Senior Adviser, Portfolio Management

Born in Poitiers, France in 1940, Mr. Eveillard is a graduate of Ecoles des Hautes Etudes Commerciales, an esteemed French graduate school for economic studies. He started his career in 1962 with Societe Generale until relocating to the United States in 1968. Two years later, Mr. Eveillard began as an analyst with the SoGen International Fund. In 1979, he was appointed as the portfolio manager of the Fund, later named the First Eagle Global Fund. He then went on to manage the First Eagle Overseas and First Eagle Gold Funds at their inception in 1993 as well as the First Eagle U.S. Value Fund in September 2001. After managing the Funds for over 30 years, Mr. Eveillard now serves as Senior Adviser and Board Trustee to First Eagle Funds and as a Senior Vice President of Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder Advisers, LLC.

Mr. Eveillard was named Morningstar's International Manager of the Year in 2001, and in 2003 received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Morningstar for building one of the most successful long-term records in the investment business.

Let me set a 30 year record straight.  

At the beginning of 1979, after 10 years of pleading for an opportunity to invest with a value approach, I was made portfolio manager of the then $15 million SoGen International Fund – the now $16 billion First Eagle Global Fund. 
I worked alone for 7 years; then I hired several analysts.  I had investment decision responsibility through 2004
(yes, 2004) for the First Eagle Global, Overseas, Overseas Variable and Gold funds as well as for the sub-advised Offshore fund.

I retired (or thought I did) from daily portfolio management responsibilities and became a senior adviser at the end of 2004.  I had no expectation, no desire to come back:  been there, done that.  In March 2007 my successor abruptly resigned.  I was immediately asked back.  I (for one) took to heart the interests of your clients, the First Eagle Funds shareholders’.  
In September 2007 a few members of the investment team left.  They were replaced.  The in-house team is 10 strong today and Columbia Business School Professor Bruce Greenwald was hired as Director of Research.  Thanks to Bruce, Columbia Business School –where Benjamin Graham, the founder of the value school used to teach– is
again the number one business school in the U.S. (indeed in the world) for value investing courses.
In June 2008, Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder Advisers hired Matthew McLennan as a portfolio manager and head of the Global Value team.  Matt joined us in September.  Rather than look for someone quickly, John Arnhold and I took the time necessary to find the right individual.  That is not a surprise.  For over 200 years, Arnhold & S.

Bleichroeder has served as a home for investment professionals and has been a good home for me for the last 9 years.  The firm has long believed in the value approach to investing and has seen itself as the steward of your clients’ savings, not as an asset gathering machine.

Matt McLennan has his feet definitely planted in the value camp.  Importantly, he has “temperament” i.e. the willingness to follow his own path if necessary away from the herd (and the truth is, it’s warmer inside the herd). 

Matt is very diligent: 15 years at Goldman Sachs leave little time for other activities … Matt has skills as demonstrated by a long record of success at Goldman managing assets.  Also, Matt has the ability to work well with the team of in-house analysts.  As I have always said, they are the heart of our operation.  Finally, Matt is joined in his portfolio management duties by Abhay Deshpande who worked closely with me as a senior analyst for 5 years and then as a portfolio manager for 3 years.

And I’m not leaving.  I’m helping in the transition through March 2009.  Then I will be in a position of senior advisor until March 2012 and will continue to be a member of the board.  In essence, I will continue to be involved.

I have held on to my First Eagle Funds shares.  Indeed, I bought more a couple of months ago.  As of today, my investment in the First Eagle Funds is in eight figures.  I plan to buy more next March.  I’m showing my confidence in Matt, Abhay and the team and I also like the idea of being in the same boat with your clients.  Action speaks louder than words.

I see that I have just talked much about myself.  That is not my style.  But, I wanted to set the record straight.  With many thanks for your support.


Jean-Marie Eveillard
Portfolio Manager
First Eagle Funds

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