I first read about Distant Force, the biography of Teledyne and its founder Henry Singleton, in an article by Geoff Gannon titled "What Would Value Investing 101 Look Like?" Teledyne Corporation was a conglomerate founded in 1960 as an electronics company by Singleton and George Kozmetsky. The company would eventually diversify into such areas as aeronautics, steel, and insurance before breaking itself up into such successor companies as Allegheny Technologies (ATI), insurance company Kemper (KMPR), and of course, Teledyne Technologies (TDY) through a series of spinoffs in the 1990s and early 2000s. During that time, the company’s stock gave investors 17.9% annual returns for 25 years, causing Warren Buffett to describe Singleton as having "the best operating and capital deployment record in American business." The reasons for that record are in this book.
That said, Distant Force isn't one of those investing books that neatly gives each concept its own chapter before wrapping up with a nice summary at the end. The author began his career as a metallurgist, and the book focuses heavily on technology rather than finance.
Thus, it is necessary to read between descriptions of rocket nozzles and rolled steel, of managers and mechanics, to understand the basis of Teledyne's extraordinary performance. Once you do so, though, you discover that there were five key factors to this performance—(Read More)