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Straightforward Investing Since 1969

The investment advisory firm of O’Brien Greene & Co. provides independent investment management to a diverse clientele. Individuals, families, and corporate retirement plans make up the majority of clients, although longtime clients also include trusts, insurance companies, and charitable endowments. We seek the preservation and growth of capital through good and bad markets, and our investment strategy emphasizes several themes: simple, transparent, separate accounts; direct ownership of high-quality stocks and investment-grade bonds; diversification across the market; customized portfolios with a high degree of personal attention. The firm has more than $270 million under management and its offices are located in suburban Philadelphia in the borough of Media, Pennsylvania.

Review & Outlook

Our take on the investing, financial, & economic themes of the day

Is the Social Media Bubble Finally Popping?

4 May, 2015 by Ben O'Brien in Commentary
Two-year Chart of Twitter, Yelp and LinkedIn  We’ve been keeping an eye on the overheated tech sector for a while. The tech industry is segmented into many pockets, some of them in bubble territory while others remain fairly well-grounded. Social media is one of the most dangerously over-hyped pockets of technology. In this weekend’s issue of Barron’s the technology column highlighted the dramatic correction in certain leading social media stocks after disappointing earnings that occurred last week: It was deja vu all over again when things turned ugly in the investor romance with social-media stocks last week. A string of disappointing earnings results shook shares of three of the most prominent Internet darlings— Twitter, Yelp, and LinkedIn —a consequence of inflated stock prices and an industry very much in transition. Sound familiar? It should. It’s the same problem of the dot-com era—namely, investors playing public venture capitalists. The three were hit ... read more...

Rethinking Diversification: The Pearl of Great Price versus Eggs-in-Many-Baskets

1 May, 2015 by Ben O'Brien in Commentary
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is perhaps the most worn out of investment cliches. It is also describes one of the central principals of modern portfolio theory, the prevailing academic theory in finance. But is it true? Mark Twain famously said, “Put all your eggs in one basket…and then watch that basket!” Then there is the Biblical parable of the Pearl of Great Price. A merchant comes across a great treasure, a pearl of great price, and sells all his possessions to buy it. While obviously not meant primarily as financial advice, the story warns against being too tentative and hedging your bets too much. Certainly there are benefits to a certain amount of diversification, but if you come across a great investment opportunity, say a high quality stock that is undervalued, doesn’t it make sense to commit a fairly large position? Warren Buffet (in his earlier days before his company grew into a giant conglomerate) and many value ... read more...

Wise Words from Charlie Munger

1 April, 2015 by Ben O'Brien in Commentary
(Source: WSJ.com) Charlie Munger is Warren Buffet’s right hand man, the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. He is widely followed by investors for is wide-ranging and often contrarian insights on business and life. Munger wears many hats, and one of his less known roles is his position of chairman of Daily Journal Corporation, a small legal publishing company. Daily Journal recently had its annual meeting which included a free-wheeling interview with Munger. You can read the whole interview, which is interesting throughout, here. The following are a few highlights: On Darwinism in business: “The perfect example of Darwinism is what technology had done to businesses. When someone takes their existing business and tries to transform it into something else – they fail. In technology that is often the case. Look at Kodak: it was the dominant imaging company in the world. They did fabulously during the great depression, but then wiped out the shareholders because of ... read more...

The Changing Structure of the Economy

24 March, 2015 by Ben O'Brien in Commentary
What makes the tech bubble debate that I wrote about in the last post particularly interesting is that despite the prevalence of what appear to be outlandish company valuations, there is of course as always another side to the story. Technology is undoubtedly changing the structure of business today.  Motley Fool columnist Morgan Housel, recently quoted a line that’s been going around on Twitter: In 2015 Uber, the world’s largest taxi company owns no vehicles, Facebook the world’s most popular media owner creates no content, Alibaba, the most valuable retailer has no inventory, and Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider owns no real estate. All of these traditionally non-tech sectors, media, transportation and hotels, are now being transformed by technology companies. You could add many more industries to this list. The problem is that 1) a lot of copy-cat tech companies that are not innovative or ground breaking are trading at astronomical ... read more...

Bubbles and Dead Unicorns: A Technology Investing Update

20 March, 2015 by Ben O'Brien in Commentary
Last summer I wrote a series of posts on the debate about whether or not there is a bubble in technology stocks and start ups. Less than a year later the situation has escalated substantially, and one of the most vocal defenders of tech stocks from last year is now urging caution. My comments last year centered around the debate over the private taxi cab hailing service Uber. (Is Uber worth 17 billion? and Uber is Delivering Ice Cream? and Disrupting the Theory of Disruption). When it was valued at $17 billion in the spring of 2014, valuation expert Aswath Damodaran cried foul. He did his own valuation which came to a $6 billion price tag. Then in a much-watched confrontation that played out on Damodaran’s blog, venture capitalist and Uber investor Bill Gurley pointed out the flaws in Damadaran’s thinking. He said, among other things, that Uber was not simply trying to capture a share of the global taxi cab business but was actually expanding the whole market. Rather ... read more...