Hall of Fame 40 - Dennis Leibowitz

Call him the accidental analyst. When Dennis Leibowitz was an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, in the early 1960s, he switched from the college of liberal arts to the Wharton School because most of his friends were there, not because he had any particular interest in business. Upon his graduation, in 1963, Leibowitz wanted to go to New York rather than return home to live with his parents in Indianapolis, so in a panic he told them he had decided to get into the stock market. He soon got a job as a research trainee with Merrill Lynch, receiving $99 a week. When at the end of the two-year program he had to pick an industry specialty, choosing between machinery and entertainment, the decision was easy. “Actually, it was entertainment and miscellaneous — and the miscellaneous included coal, shoes and tobacco,” recalls Leibowitz, 69. “But it had the movie studios and the broadcasters, and that’s really where I first got into the area that I’ve covered ever since.”

In 1967, Leibowitz left Merrill for brokerage firm Bache & Co. But five years later, when he made his debut on the inaugural All-America Research Team, the then–Coleman & Co. analyst was named No. 1 in Lodging, not Broadcasting (which didn’t become a survey sector until 1974). “To get paid by institutions, particularly with the rise of Institutional Investor, I needed something bigger than just broadcasting and entertainment, so I picked up lodging,” says Leibowitz, who stopped following lodging companies in the 1980s, when he began coverage of the cellular industry. His semiannual cellular investment tome became known by his many fans as the “Dick Tracy Report” because it had a picture on the cover of the comic strip detective talking into his wristwatch.

Only Edward Hyman Jr. (see page 51) has more No. 1 appearances on the All-America Research Team than Leibowitz, who finished first in Broadcasting, Cable, Cellular or Lodging a remarkable 25 times. The majority of those wins were achieved for Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp., where he worked from 1977 to 2001 (the last year as part of Credit Suisse First Boston, which bought DLJ in 2000). In 2002 he launched Act II Partners, a New York–based long-short hedge fund that now has $425 million in assets. Would he advise current Wharton grads to follow his career path?

“I don’t know,” he says. “When I see what analysts go through now — the model building, marketing and traveling you have to do — it’s very, very hard work. If you want a life, this isn’t it, at least not in the beginning.”

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