One row of velvet chairs and a “mic” stood between me and the world’s savviest investors this week at the 18th Annual Sohn Investment Conference. Finely dressed reporters from Forbes and top dogs from Wall Street sporting the latest Versace two-button wool-and-linen suits filled 3,000 seats of Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center. The speaker list reads like the Oscars, with names like Ackman, Chanos, Einhorn, and Gundlach; you know you are among financial royalty. I admit my 2nd row seat gave me goose bumps a few times but also made me pause and reflect about the amazing acts of courage of some truly special people. Stories you wonít hear about on CNBC or Twitter.
The Sohn Investment Conference is named for Ira W. Sohn. Ira Sohn was a father, a husband and talented Wall Street trader who was only 29 years old when his life was abruptly cut short from cancer. Right after Ira’s passing, Ira’s colleagues and friends Douglas Hirsch, Lance Laifer and Daniel Nir, along with Ira’s mother Judith Sohn and brother Evan, created the Ira Sohn Research Conference, now called The Sohn Investment Conference. Sadly, I never knew Ira however; I have come to understand the depths of his good nature and character by way of this conference, his family and the man who knew him best – his father, Norman Sohn, MD, MBA.
As fate would have it, Dr. Sohn and I joined Beacon on exactly the same day, January 4, 2010. We shared an office and worked directly across from each other for the first 6 months, exchanging news stories about the stock market and the latest must-have apps for our iPhones. Though painfully difficult, he eventually shared the history of Ira’s death and background of the Sohn Conference Foundation. Hearing his story, I was stunned and at a loss for words.
I attended my first Sohn Conference in 2011 and was in awe. The top hedge fund managers, portfolio managers, and private investors pay a hefty ticket price to see live presentations and hear shorts, longs, insights, trends, investment picks, macro and global thesis from the worldís most successful billionaires like David Einhorn and Jeff Gundlach. With help from their quant-jocks and research teams, these guys meticulously prepare each slide and graph, and every number as if their life depended on it. Their presentations literally move markets percentage points up (or down) in mere seconds. It is a total thrill to watch. BTW Einhorn’s pick OIS is up +1.02% at the time of this writing.
But nestled within the picks and market moves, there were amazing stories of bravery and courage. I was especially moved by Cindy Campbell, the mother of “Super Ty” and cofounder of the Ty Louis Campbell Foundation. She shared the most adorable pictures of her late son Ty who passed away 13 days after his 5th birthday from a very rare and aggressive form of cancer. She also talked about the fact that nearly all children who are diagnosed with cancer are given adult treatments and shocking amounts of radiation and medicine. The statistics she offered really opened my eyes. Quite sadly, her son endured 20 surgeries in one year, and spent 225 days of his life in the hospital – talk about courage and putting life into perspective. No child should ever have to suffer like that. Ever.
The silver lining of it all… stories heard at this yearís Sohn Conference not only moved the needle on the market but helped raise more than $50 million for the cure and treatment of pediatric cancer. Leading this initiative is, of course, the Sohn family, founders of the Sohn Investment Conference, along with the speakers, the attendees, and especially the brave mothers and fathers who got up on stage and shared their amazing and inspiring stories in hopes of making a difference in the life of a child. I would like to thank them all.
If you would like to help, please visit www.sohnconference.org
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