Martin J. Whitman, a legendary investor who founded and managed the firm Third Avenue Management and taught at Yale for decades, died on Monday, April 16. He was 93.
Whitman was a frequent collaborator with Martin S. Shubik, now professor emeritus of management and economics. The two taught together in the Yale economics department and at Yale SOM, and co-wrote the classic book The Aggressive Conservative Investor. With Professor Stanley J. Garstka, Whitman taught courses in distressed investing and bankruptcy and value investing, and co-authored papers on the bankruptcy process as an investment tool. “There are many SOM graduates who can trace the roots of their investing prowess to an initial first course with Whitman,” says Garstka, who contributed this remembrance of his colleague.
Marty was enormously successful in his personal and professional lives because he knew who and what he was and was always true to himself. He never tried to be someone he was not. While Marty was immensely successful in generating personal wealth, his satisfaction derived from doing a task well, in a manner consistent with his beliefs and always according to the rules. He was a value investor through and through—no fancy cars or limos; he drove a Prius.
Marty valued his family more than anyone I have known. He exuded such pride and pleasure when speaking of his wife Lois’ exploits in running Children’s Rights Watch (an arm of the Human Rights Watch which she founded) or two sons’ successes in academia or his daughter’s successes in the theater.
He and his wife were enormously generous in philanthropic giving (of their time and money) whether it was to his alma mater Syracuse University where the business school is named after him, or whether it was endowing scholarships for minority Arab and Palestinian student to attend Tel Aviv University’s MBA program, or in the many scholarship for minority students at American Universities and Law schools.
He was a great man…to be emulated for sure.