No Blockbusters At Sohn Conference

May 17 2012 | 1:23pm ET

Those expecting the earth-shattering and market-remaking from yesterday's Ira Sohn Investment Research Conference will have to wait another year.

The 17th annual event, held at New York's Lincoln Center, did feature Paulson & Co. founder John Paulson for the first time. But neither Paulson's presentation nor those offered by any of the other speakers generated the sort of buzz that previous conferences have seen.

Even a Sohn Conference favorite, Greenlight Capital's David Einhorn, failed to live up the expectations he's set for himself (in 2008, he predicted Lehman Brothers' downfall; last year, he demanded the ouster of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer). The New York Times even called his speech "meandering."

Einhorn did touch on a whole host of investment ideas. But he offered more in the way of laughs than details, and rarely specified if Greenlight was betting on any of the companies and trades he discussed.

Einhorn did manage to move the markets, however, by failing to even mention Herbalife, a company whose shares he sent plummeting with a strongly-worded question during its earnings call a few weeks ago. Indeed, the only mention of Herbalife, if it even counts as such, was the first image on Einhorn's PowerPoint presentation, showing Bart Simpson writing on a chalkboard, "I will not pretend to be David Einhorn on earnings calls."

By not mentioning Herbalife by name, Einhorn sent its shares up 17%.

That presentation included 137 slides, dealing with concerns about Martin Marietta Materials, plaudits for Apple Inc. and declaring Amazon.com "a riddle."

In his Sohn debut, Paulson returned to a years-long theme for him, gold, noting that AngloGold Ashanti shares have failed to track soaring gold prices. He also said he was bettering on Caesars Entertainment Corp. and CVR Energy, thanking Carl Icahn for his "gift" of a takeover bid for the energy refiner.

Others appearing at the Sohn Conference were Lone Pine Capital's Steven Mandel, who pitched Kohl's Corp.; Coatue Management's Philippe Laffont, who sang data center Equinix Inc.'s praises; Ospraie Management's Dwight Anderson, who is bullish on Westlake Chemical Corp. as a palladium bet; Glenview Capital Management's Larry Robbins, who likes Tenet Healthcare; Redwood Capital Management's Jonathan Kolatch, who recommended Argentine sovereign debt; Hoplite's John Lykouretzos, who backed Starbucks; and DoubleLine Capital's Jeffrey Gundlach, who contradicted Einhorn on Apple and pushed long bets on natural gas.


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