Few if any equity analysts have been following the same sector longer than Cowen Group managing director Cai von Rumohr. He picked up coverage of aerospace companies in 1969, when he joined Boston-based research boutique G.S. Grumman & Associates after graduating from Harvard Business School. Von Rumohr, who had studied European history as an undergrad at Harvard and knew absolutely nothing about aerospace, was happy just to get a job.
I was sort of given this industry, not that I wanted it, says von Rumohr, 67. The guy I worked for followed aerospace. He wanted to move over to computers, so I picked up some of his stuff.
In the first All-America Research Team, von Rumohr finished second in Aerospace behind another relative newcomer, Alan Benasuli of Burnham & Co. In 1976, Grumman merged with Cowen, and von Rumohr grabbed the crown from Benasuli. He would keep it for the next nine years, as investors came to rely on his detailed reports and thoughtful analysis of companies like Boeing Co. and General Dynamics Corp. He finished first in Aerospace 11 times and appeared in the rankings 29 times.
Von Rumohr loves the diversity and the cyclicality of the aerospace industry. The companies arent all going up or all going down together, he explains. Once youve seen the cycles, you get a sense of how a stock can react. Thats the kind of intellectual charge.
When his bosses at Cowen asked von Rumohr to take over as director of research, in the mid-90s, he agreed to do it but insisted that they let him continue to cover aerospace. Fortunately, he says, he was able to go back to just being an analyst in 1998, after Société Générale bought Cowen and wanted to install its own head of research.
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