Category Archives: What we read

Some links

Forget accelerators. Slowing down makes you more creative (TED talk)

Emerging Market bonds are back again and a profile of EM bond guru Michael Hasenstab

Interesting observations on Coach and its brand strategy

Some interesting facts about the Swedish stock market

A few weeks old but still interesting: Bronte Capital on UK banking (and RBS)

Be carefull when peer-to-peer lenders report “returns”



Book review: “Shoe Dog – A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE” – Phil Knight


“Shoe Dog” is the memoir of Phil Knight’s early years as founder and CEO of NIKE.

As a University track runner, he got the idea to import sport shoes from Japan. Without much preparation he flew to Japan and actually managed to get the importer contract for the Japanese Tiger brand.

The first shoes he sold on track & field competitions literally out of the trunk of his car. For the first years, he worked as a CPA at day and financed the shoe business with his salary. The creation of the NIKE brand was more or less a “forced coincidence” when the Japanese company tried to kick them out of their deal.

As the company was founded with very little equity, (only 1000 USD, with his former coach as 49% partner), the company was for many years always on the brink of bankruptcy and was saved once by the parents of an employee and another time by a Japanese trading company.

I was very surprised how well the book is written. I am not sure but I think most of the memoir is written by Phil Knight himself. The book reads much more like a Thriller than like a (somewhat boring) “How I did it” memoir. For the first 200 pages or so I couldn’t put the book down. Although the end of the story is well know it is nevertheless fascinating to read how the first 10 years or so they limped from one near death experience to the other.

What I also find interesting is that Phil Knight mostly describes the mistakes he made. If you read the book you get the impression “What the hell did he actually do ?” for NIKE to become so succesful. In his descriptions it is almost always his employees or his former partner who came up with the best ideas. His leadership style seemed to be very team oriented and “Hands off”, a nice contrast to the “maniac detail obsessed” guys like Bezos and Jobs. My interpretation is that he basically was responsible for the general direction and strategy and let his employees do whatever they thought was the right thing to do.

My learnings from the book:

  • Those days were great days for banks. They were the kings and start-ups like Nike the ones begging for money. Raising money back then was really difficult, capital was scarce.
  • A value investor woul dhave never invested in this company as it was debt only, free cash flow negative and with little observable competitive advantages for the first 10-15 years.
  • Nike was actually saved by a Japanese trading company which funded the expansion after the bank refused to finance a strongly growing but cashflow negative company
  • The brand “Nike” and the “swoosh” were much more coincidence than strategic planning
  • Nike and Knight were at the right place at the right time. When people started to wear sneakers as everyday shoe, Nike was just there. They didn’t foresee it and didn’t plan for it.
  • Phil Knight’s leadership style seems to have been very “hands-off”, much less detail obsessed than for instance Jobs or Bezos. A good example that a founder doesn’t need to be an egomaniac asshole to be succesful.
  • Amazon these days is able to charge more for the Kindle copy than for the paperback. Remarkable.
  • From a personality point of view the founders and initial team seem to have been “outsiders”. A guy in a wheelchair, an obese guy and a more or less autistic running freak were the first employees and later also the top management. Not your typical Fortune 500 top management.


Overall I can only recommend this book. I think it makes a perfect and surprisingly “thrilling” read especially for the summer holidays.




Some links

Must read: Deep thoughts on changing  competitive advantages from Jan (TGV Truffle fund)

Competitive Advantages 2: How ARM did beat almighty Intel

Steve Balmers “Truth”: How Microsoft missed mobile

The guy from Punch Card Blog look into one of heir failed investments (CONN)

Chipotle and the next big thing: Burgers. Plus a look behind the Chipotle counter.

Stock picking is not dead, closet indexing most likely will be soon

Some links

Recommended: TGV Partners Fund 6 month report: “Don’t be a dividend monkey”

Recommended: RV Capital 6 month report: “Is it possible to be long-term and contrarian?”

Congratulations. John Hempton (Bronte) got a full Bloomberg profile

Matt Levine on the FTC ruling for Herbalife

Buying a diet shake from a Herbalife distributor will now be harder than buying a gun; 

Why Active Asset Managers need to change their business model

A good checklist from Forager if an Acquisition makes sense (or not)

The current state of the Bordeaux WIne market (, search result)


Some links

Great insights how the event ticket market works (hint: You’re screwed)

Armstrong Flooring could be an interesting small cap Spin-off (h/t AR, market folly)

Is there a mattress store bubble ? Plus Jeff Mathews on Mattress Firm (MFRM)

Interesting letter from Gator Capital, a HF focused on financial services companies with an analysis of post-reorg Ambac

Jim Chanos sees big issues in online and auto lending in the US 

Shipping Parties in Greece are not as much fun anymore



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