How we managed and won our bet on Ebola stocks

In 2001, the world was ablaze with panic and fear about the Ebola virus – a constant and pervasive topic of discussion in every available media format and on every electronic medium you could imagine.

It was as if it was the topic of the day, top of the news page, on every evening newscast, and ad infinitum.

Maggie McCartney, in particular, did an outstanding job of outlining the strange yet riveting world of what would later become known as the “Pentagon Papers”.

Read more about Maggie McCartney’s legacy here.

My parents moved to Australia from the United States to send me back the great British Bulldog. My father is very proud to be Scottish. In school he would often bring home cups and saucers bearing the Quaker slogan “Have ’em, c’est la vie!”

My desire to live in England is a major component of my resiliency. It is the place that gave me this world and it is where I want to come back to again and again.

So, when I first heard about Ebola, it was horrifying to me. Especially the few terrifying snippets of it that made it into TV news. I watched them as if they were swimming through my mind. This list is never-ending. All of it included appalling scenes of blood-drenched babies. Children and infants: those were the toughest parts for me. I really struggled to watch them.

In the days before the outbreak, I bought shares in Marvell Technology, Inc. My father was in Liberia at the time. He sent his beloved and loyal colleague, John Smith, out to purchase tickets for us to travel down to the big West African country to visit a friend. I immediately started to imagine that Ebola could be connected to Marvell’s stock price. So, I started following the stock.

In early December, John Smith wrote an in-depth story. We said to John – don’t buy any more Marvell until you’ve read it. He answered back by email – he wasn’t buying any more Marvell until he was comfortable that there weren’t any links between Marvell and Ebola. Did we read it? So far so good.

We got tired and stuff got complicated. We visited friends and celebrated, but we didn’t buy any more Marvell stock. By December 28, the stock was a “1”. That means the value of the company is about $1. That price was unusually low.

In those final days, we sold all our stocks, even the “good” ones.

I immediately bought Ebola stocks that were part of the index of the three largest companies in Ebola-ravaged Sierra Leone. The portfolios were managed by Chris Wletz, a friend and mutual friend. From there, we purchased QRX Pharma, Inc., Oasys Technologies, Inc. and Galileo Therapeutics, Inc. All stocks were traded at less than $1. They are now collectively worth about $20.

I was thrilled and excited. How amazing that someone who had been so fearful and anxious that he could not really invest might invest in a company that had done so much for a man in his distress. For that, I have to give Chris credit.

I sometimes feel in my heart that I do not fully understand humans or their actions, how some rationalize them or think they are just on a personal journey or time in history, however many centuries. They don’t get it. They do not consider the internal and external pressures that are affecting them at the moment. They feel they can do whatever they want to do and that the whole world would love them no matter what they did.

I went to bed one night and thought of the stock in Marvell that just kept dropping below $1. I felt like my dad described at school – have ’em, c’est la vie!

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