Fairholme Fund Manager Berkowitz Bets on Sears

Bruce Berkowitz, who was named mutual-fund manager of the decade in 2010, has seen his Fairholme Fund lose 89% of its assets from its 2011 peak due to poor performance—but he hopes to turn things around with a major bet on the battered Sears Holdings Corp. This according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.

The Fairholme Fund has lost 12.9% so far this year compared to the 9% gain in the S&P 500, the article reports. It adds that Berkowitz is “unapologetic” for the poor returns, saying that “he always has promised his investors ultra-concentrated, often contrarian bets and high volatility was a likely result.”

Berkowitz started growing the fund’s Sears holdings in late 2005, according to WSJ, and “now owns both debt and equity in a number of Sears’ entities.” Another part of the fund manager’s planned “comeback”, says the article, is in its holdings of government-backed mortgage financing behemoths Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which could benefit significantly from anticipated regulatory reform.

Regarding his Sears position, the article quotes Berkowitz’s comment in a recent interview, “The deaths of today’s malls and other enclosed spaces is greatly exaggerated.” He argues that as online retailers “reshape” shopping, the parking lots and properties owned by anchor stores such as Sears will be repurposed. “No one thinks about the parking lots,” he says, adding, “Those already have infrastructure, highways, secondary roads, sewers, water systems.”