Irving Kahn was an incredibly fascinating man that received less than his fair share of media praise during his lifetime. An intuitive individual that invested during the Great Depression and lived to be 109, Kahn was a unique example of what can happen when you have five variables working in sync: (1) raw intelligence; (2) an insatiable intellectual curiosity; (3) the capacity for decisive action; (4) a wildly long runway of 80 years; and (5) a decent amount of capital as a young man.
In 1928, Kahn had the gut sense that some type of shock to the system was imminent because valuations were trading at 4x the post-Civil War average despite only giving slightly above average growth. He then made an incredible decision. He sold all of his investments, held 70% of his net worth as cash, and took the remaining 30% and shorted a company called Magma Copper that was barely profitable during the Roaring 1920s was incredibly overleveraged.