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The Davis Dynasty

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The Davis Dynasty

Three Generations of Passion and Success on Wall Street


15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Meet the most successful investor you’ve probably never heard of.

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Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


John Rothchild has written a fascinating biography of one of Wall Street’s most successful and least-known investors, Shelby Davis, who turned a $50,000 initial investment in 1947 into $900 million, almost exclusively by buying and selling insurance stocks. Part character study, part Wall Street history, Rothchild’s book reads like a novel, with an accessible and witty narrative. Of special note is the concise summary of Davis’ investment strategy, which rivals Buffettology in its simplicity and common sense. In Rothchild’s hands, Davis’ life becomes a fun read, no matter what your business interests, and getAbstract recommends this book to all curious readers.


Wall Street Fortune

Shelby Davis turned $50,000 into $900 million by investing mostly in insurance stocks. Davis was a former radio writer, Republican campaign advisor, and New York State Insurance Department bureaucrat when, in 1947, at age 40, he took the plunge. With no MBA and no formal economics training, he quit his job to become a full-time prospector in the insurance sector. Friends and relatives were skeptical. This was before the mid-life crisis was invented - Otherwise, they would have suspected Davis was having one.

During the next 50 years, Davis turned his investment portfolio into one of the great Wall Street fortunes before he died in 1994. For the entire time, through booms and busts, bebop, the beatniks and the Beatles, Shelby Davis stuck with insurance stocks. When prices for U.S. insurance companies were too high, he bought Japanese insurance stocks. This proved to be a wise gamble. In the 1960s, his Japanese holdings took off like pigeons near a firecracker. By the time he died in 1994, he’d multiplied his original investment 18,000 times.

Shelby Davis never became a household name. He did make the Forbes’ list of wealthiest Americans in...

About the Author

John Rothchild wrote the blockbusters One Up On Wall Street Beating the Street and Learn to Earn (with Peter Lynch). He is the sole author of The Bear Book, A Fool and His Money and Going for Broke. A former editor of The Washington Monthly, and Fortune Magazine, Rothchild has written for Harpers, Rolling Stone, Esquire and other magazines. He has appeared on the Today Show, The Nightly Business Report and CNBC.

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