No. of Recommendations: 22
Bill Mann’s departure from the regular MF subscription services has raised a number of questions, and crystallized a few things for me. I am just going to throw a bunch of ideas out there . . . . And, I like and respect all MF personnel mentioned in this post – I have no desire to offend anyone or be critical of anyone. So, here goes – my conclusion is at the end:

1. One sort of OT thought – Bill’s departure seems very abrupt, as does the closing of the Pay Dirt service. I understand regulatory requirements, but there is something a little strange about the dynamics of these moves. A very abrupt, 100% cessation of Bill’s involvement – no transition, no preparation (contrast this with the lengthy and careful process underlying Seth’s replacement of Tom in HG), with mechanics poorly handled (apparently, many GG subscribers, including me, did not receive any notice of the changes), suggests hasty decisions, which in turn suggests that things are not necessarily hunky-dory in Fool-land. None of my business, except to the extent it sends signals about the MF services to which I subscribe.

2. It would be strange if these hard economic times, which are, for example, hurting Morningstar, did not have a big adverse effect on TMF. The question is – will these hard times translate into reduced value for traditional subscribers?

Will costs be cut, leading to less behind-the-scenes work in producing the weekly and monthly TMF output? This would be very hard for someone like me to detect – and is generally unlikely, in my view, because it would be inconsistent with the very strong ethics I see as a fundamental aspect of TMF. But this could occur in a more benign form – a leading (expensive) advisor being replaced by less experienced advisors. Does a GG service headed by Tim and Nate (both of whom I respect) really merit a subscription price that is *twice* the price of a service (SA) headed by two of the great stock pickers of out time (Tom and David G.)? Do we really think that the new team (Nate and Tim) is the equal of the old team (Bill plus Nate and Tim), right now? Obviously, Nate and Tim may ultimately prove to be an equal or better team, but right now it is a bit like replacing Joe DiMaggio with two talented but somewhat unproven rookies. (I recognize that one of Joe DiMaggio’s eventual replacements was the even greater Mickey Mantle . . . .)

Or, will TMF change emphasis, looking for alternative business models that produce more revenue and/or higher margins in these troubled times? Will TMF’s most talented and experienced personnel gravitate toward new services, such a PRO or the new asset management business? Are we subscribers now participating in “trailing edge” services, when the top MF talent is focused on “leading edge” activities such as PRO and asset management?

3. I currently subscribe to five MF services (SA, RB, IV, HG and GG). This is too many – I get far more ideas each month than I can evaluate or implement. And, in this terrible market, I find that it makes sense to concentrate one’s investments a bit, so that stocks can be tracked more carefully and so that strategies such as selling covered calls, selling puts, etc. can be followed. (Large numbers of shares are required to implement an options strategy, since options come in blocks of 100 shares). Also, there are no discounts for multiple subscriptions, but there are overlaps in coverage – e.g., KHD and CFSG are covered in both HG (CFSG is a Tiny Gem) and GG, CX is a recommendation of both GG and SA, etc.

My conclusion?

I have not decided 100%, but I have a hard time seeing the argument for GG now, in its new incarnation, as a $299 service. The best argument for premium pricing in the old days was the “this is the brain child and intense focus of our resident genius, Bill Mann” argument – now we have two less experienced advisors heading up a service that seems to occupy the trailing edge of TMF’s business. (I expect that there are extra costs to doing a good job on international stocks, though, which might explain the need for a premium.)

In any event, for me, something has to go, if only for logistical reasons, and GG seems to be the obvious choice at this point. I am going to wait a day or two, just to let things settle, but most likely will disappear from these boards soon, so I want to thank everyone on these boards, and in this service, for contributing so much to my education. I wish everyone the very best in the future.


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