Mr. Combs was one of hundreds of people who responded to an unconventional “help wanted” request Mr. Buffett made in early 2007.
Apparently after Combs sent in his application and didn’t hear anything, he sent a letter to Charlie Munger, asking if he’d meet.
We don’t know what was in the letter, but Munger says something about it stood out. He met with Combs and later told Buffett, “this is a guy I am sure you’re going to like.”
They both tell the Journal there is a “gut” feeling they feel about Combs, so there’s no better way to figure out what they mean than to look at what other people who know him say about him.
As far as character references on Combs, the Wall Street Journal has plenty.
- Combs is a “heavy coffee drinker,” says Scott Sipprelle, a former Morgan Stanley managing director who gave Combs one of his first jobs at Copper Arch Capital LLC.
- He loves Warren Buffett. “We called Warren Buffett the spiritual mentor of the firm; we talked about him constantly, read and debated his annual letters, and analysed his portfolio religiously,” says Sipprelle.
- He dresses low-key. Khaki pants and a button-down shirt are his go-tos. He rarely wears a tie and jacket.
- He has a photo of his family on his desk.
- His desk is messy with “tall piles of research materials and annual reports.”
- He doesn’t chit chat, says Jared Perry, who helps run investment firm Stonehorse Capital, which signed up as an investor in Mr. Combs’s fund.
- He lights up when talking about the market, says Perry.
- He didn’t know anyone when he got started, says his wife’s maid of honour.
- “I don’t remember saying to myself, ‘This guy is the next Warren Buffett,’ ” says Richard Hanley, manager of Hambletonian Partners LP, a hedge fund in New York, who taught Combs at Columbia. “But he probably had the greatest desire to win.”
- He is passionate and thoughtful, says Perry.
- Combs isn’t a risk-taker. He has done a better job watching out for downside risk than he has finding huge gainers, say clients.