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Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor.

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8:30 AM Wednesday, December 14, 2005: There are three ways to buy shares on the stockmarket:

1. The total gamble. You have an idea, an insight. People are buying organic food. Hence, buy Whole Foods. Good idea. People are buying electronics for Christmas. Hence, buy Best Buy. Bad idea. This is the way most of us invest. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Buying an index fund works as well as buying individual stocks, according to many studies. Throwing darts at The Wall Street Journal's stock charts also works.

2. The semi gamble.You buy oodles of individual stocks. Then you approach the management of the company suggesting they do something different, like sell the company or break it up. This is happening at a number of companies, like General Motors, Time Warner and Knight Ridder. This approach rarely works. It's expensive. You and I can't afford it. Kirk Kerkorian has probably lost $500 million since he bought 10% of GM at around $30. Kerkorian has been trying to get a seat for his man on GM's board -- so far without success.

Another semi gamble is one taken by Private Capital Management, a money management company in Florida, of which I'm sadly a client. The company has used my money and those of its other clients to buy major stakes in newspaper companies, including Gannett, Knight Ridder and The New York Times. This strategy has been an unmitigated disaster, e.g.

Private Capital did convince Knight Ridder to put itself up for sale -- and the stock has bounced:

There's no way Private Capital will convince the Sulzberger family to put The New York Times up for sale. Which is sad. The Times management has zero idea what to do in the face of the present (and continuing) slump in readership and profitability of printed newspapers. In contrast, The Wall Street Journal now makes more money with its on-line web site services than it does with its paper edition.

3. The Harry Newton gamble. Last night I offered to buy several million dollars worth of TiVo, I offered my personal wisdom and help on saving and growing the company in exchange for a directorship. I was rejected, thus saving me money and a potential huge loss -- a la Kerkorian. Fact is most company presidents reject any idea that is not their own. This is excrutiatingly bad management.

For some weeks now, I've had a dialog with Tom Rogers, TiVo's CEO and President. Why have I wasted my time with TiVo? My "problem" is that I'm a huge TiVo fan. I love the box. I can't live without the box. I'm also a businessman. I recognize the pickle TiVo is presently in. I believe if TiVo could work better and deliver much more, I'd like to feel confident about buying the stock. But I don't believe Tom Rogers listens. Moreover, his background is media, not technology. TiVo is a technology company.

There are so many wonderful things TiVo could do. Try this:

TiVo lets you time shift TV fare from when it was aired to when you want to watch it. But to time shift, you have to choose -- in advance. Last night a reader emailed me that Charlie Rose recently had a wonderful interview with Stephen Gaghan, the genius behind the movie, Syriana. I'd pay TiVo money to send me that interview. I bet PBS would love the extra revenue. TiVo needs to negotiate deals like this fast. Think of all the great programming that becomes valueless the moment it's aired... Think of all the people like me who'd pay a little to watch something they missed.

TiVo remains a great short. I don't think it will survive. (By the way, after a month of fiddling, I eventually did get TiVo-To-Go to work. It works wonderfully. I figured it out for myself. Their "help" desk and their web site were useless.)

Call this number: 1.888.ELF.7667. "Trust me, it's worth it," emailed Michael, my son. He's right. It's a phone line for Virgin Mobile.

More profoundly silly thoughts:
+ Never read the fine print. There ain't no way you're going to like it.

+ If you let a smile be your umbrella, most likely your butt will get soaking wet.

+ The only two things we do with greater frequency in middle age are urinate and attend funerals.

+ The trouble with bucket seats is that not everybody has the same size bucket.

+ To err is human, to forgive -- highly unlikely.

+ In 40 years, we'll have millions of old ladies running around with tattoos.

+ Money can't buy happiness -- but it's more comfortable to cry in a Porsche than a Kia.

+ Drinking makes some husbands see double and feel single.

+ After a certain age, if you don't wake up aching somewhere, you're probably dead.

Recent column highlights:
+ Dumb reasons we hold losing stocks. Click here.
+ How my private equity fund is doing. Click here.
+ Blackstone private equity funds. Click here.
+ Manhattan Pharmaceuticals: Click here.
+ NovaDel Biosciences appeals. Click here.
+ Hana Biosciences appeals. Click here.
+ All turned on by biotech. Click here.
+ Steve Jobs Commencement Address. The text is available: Click here. The full audio is available. Click here.
+ The March of the Penguins, an exquisite movie. Click here.
+ When to sell stocks. Click here.

Harry Newton

This column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads. Thus I cannot endorse any, though some look mighty interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay Claire's law school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.
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