Stanley Druckenmiller: My Biggest Mistake And What I Learned From It

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Here’s a great interview with Stanley Druckenmiller at the Lost Tree Club in 2015. While the entire interview is a must read for all investors, there’s one answer from Druckenmiller that requires closer attention. Ken Langone asks Druckenmiller:

KL: You mentioned some of your biggest winners in your career. What is the biggest mistake you made and what did you learn from it?

Here is Druckenmiller’s response:

SD: Well, I made a lot of mistakes, but I made one real doozy. So, this is kind of a funny story, at least it is 15 years later because the pain has subsided a little. But in 1999 after Yahoo and America Online had already gone up like tenfold, I got the bright idea at Soros to short internet stocks. And I put 200 million in them in about February and by mid-march the 200 million short I had lost $600 million, gotten completely beat up and was down like 15 percent on the year. And I was very proud of the fact that I never had a down year, and I thought well, I’m finished.

So, the next thing that happens is I can’t remember whether I went to Silicon Valley or I talked to some 22-year-old with Asperger’s. But whoever it was, they convinced me about this new tech boom that was going to take place. So I went and hired a couple of gun slingers because we only knew about IBM and Hewlett-Packard. I needed Ventas and Verisign. I wanted the six. So, we hired this guy and we end up on the year — we had been down 15 and we ended up like 35 percent on the year. And the Nasdaq’s gone up 400 percent.

So, I’ll never forget it. January of 2000 I go into Soros’s office and I say I’m selling all the tech stocks, selling everything. This is crazy. [unint.] at 104 times earnings. This is nuts. Just kind of as I explained earlier, we’re going to step aside, wait for the next fat pitch. I didn’t fire the two gun slingers. They didn’t have enough money to really hurt the fund, but they started making 3 percent a day and I’m out. It is driving me nuts. I mean their little account is like up 50 percent on the year. I think Quantum was up seven. It’s just sitting there.

So like around March I could feel it coming. I just – I had to play. I couldn’t help myself. And three times during the same week I pick up a – don’t do it. Don’t do it. Anyway, I pick up the phone finally. I think I missed the top by an hour. I bought $6 billion worth of tech stocks, and in six weeks I had left Soros and I had lost $3 billion in that one play. You asked me what I learned. I didn’t learn anything. I already knew that I wasn’t supposed to do that. I was just an emotional basket case and couldn’t help myself. So, maybe I learned not to do it again. But I already knew that.

You can read the entire interview here.

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