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Good Luck, Joseph Lewis

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Word comes today that the British billionaire Joseph Lewis is going to take action to protect his investment in Bear Stearns (BSC), in which he holds a significant share.

Perhaps the most amazing part of this story is that just days before JP Morgan (JPM) struck the deal to acquire Bear Stearns for several thousand cases of two-buck Chuck, Mr. Lewis bought a bunch of the failing bank for $55 per share.

That's a significant error in somebody's judgment, and exactly the kind of thing that I have done during my entire investment career, always on the good advice of people who know something about the market. They don't call me The Cooler for nothing.

Years ago, my company made an investment in a provider of business information services. I thought it was a heck of a company and still do. At that time, the service was owned by a larger corporation, a holding company that looked like a clear winner. I investigated and decided to make a plunge, purchasing what was then for me a significant position -- probably about $5,000, I can't really remember. The day I bought it, it went from $20 to $18, then after a few months drifted down like a wilting rose into a stinking weed to less than $6, where I dumped it for a loss.

This process repeated itself over and over again with each of my investments. For instance, a few years ago I decided to stop gambling with high-risk securities and go for a conservative portfolio that included GE (GE), IBM (IBM), GM (GM) and a host of other long-term stocks representing the spine upon which our nation's strength is built. How could that fail? And yet, of course, it did fail, fail most spectacularly, as the market went nuts for digital foie gras and gave meat and potatoes a big fat yawn.

Finally, a couple of months ago, I decided that at least a small portion of my puny hoard should go to a company that was destined to fly high for the duration, never splitting, always building value. So I took a small, dormant IRA and put it all in Google (GOOG), which was then trading at $700. Not one analyst at the time said that I should watch my step. Go look up its price right now. You can Google it if you want.

So Good Luck to you, Joseph Lewis. It looks like you've got the will, the spunk and the resources to fight the inevitable hand of fate. And who knows? You may succeed. One of us losers has to get lucky some time, I guess.

Until then... any of you who have horror stories to tell are cordially invited to lob them in.