Charles de Vaulx, a renowned value investor and co-founder of International Value Advisors, died suddenly Monday afternoon, leaving the asset management industry in shock. It was an apparent suicide, according to the New York Police Department.
De Vaulx, 59, had built a long career as a risk-aware global investor who never deviated from his deep-value approach, even when it meant keeping as much as 40% of his funds in cash because he couldn’t find attractive investments during a 13-year stretch in which the markets favored faster-growing companies. De Vaulx’s conviction set him apart in the industry, even among other battle-tested contrarians.
“Others were willing to compromise and try some new approaches to adapt,” said Gregg Wolper, senior analyst at Morningstar Manager Research. “De Vaulx didn’t think that was appropriate, and stuck to the deep value approach. His investors appreciated it because there weren’t many other places to find that.”
The French fund manager was a disciple of legendary value manager Jean-Marie Eveillard, at SoGen and then First Eagle, before launching IVA in 2008. “I will always miss the young intern who helped me when I needed help at SoGen in 1987, and that continued at First Eagle,” Eveillard told Barron’s in an email. “He set the example for everyone else.”
At First Eagle, de Vaulx racked up peer-beating performance that won him, and co-manager Chuck de Lardemelle, accolades. First Eagle, in a tribute on their site, described de Vaulx, who worked there for 20 years, as a longtime champion of value investing. “Charles left an indelible mark on the investment management industry and on those who had the opportunity to work with him,” the firm said.
De Vaulx entered his Midtown Manhattan office Monday afternoon and jumped from the 10th floor, according to the New York Police Department. The news came six weeks after IVA announced it was closing down, and a week after it liquidated its two U.S. mutual funds, a move that had surprised the industry because the firm still had more than $2 billion in assets, and value was beginning to see a resurgence.
Very much a bottoms-up investor who did deep research into companies and would passionately make the case for them, De Valux was also attuned to broader macroeconomic forces. And the high levels of debt around the world—both government and individual—troubled De Vaulx. That along with high valuations contributed to his desire to hang on to cash, even as markets charged ahead. “The reason he stuck with it wasn’t because he was stubborn but because he felt it was the best way to invest to protect his shareholders from losses and it was his duty to preserve capital,” Wolper added.
That conviction earned him respect in the industry. “Charles was a thoughtful, talented, disciplined, and risk-averse investor, who brought an intensity to his craft,” said Larry Pitkowsky, a fellow value manager at GoodHaven Capital Management. “And he was also a generous friend to many in the investment business.”
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