By Gordon Pape, Editor and Publisher
This is a big year for us. It’s the 25th anniversary of our first full year of publication, and we’ve designed a special logo to mark the occasion.
When we first started out a quarter-century ago, we were venturing into new territory. To the best of my knowledge, no one was publishing an investment newsletter exclusively on-line. We were the first to do so in Canada, and perhaps in the world.
Prior to the launch of the Internet Wealth Builder, I had been writing a traditional paper and ink newsletter on mutual funds. At the time, Prentice Hall (and later Penguin) were publishing my annual Guide to Mutual Funds, which always topped the best-seller lists when it came out. But some readers didn’t want to wait a year for updates, so Mutual Funds Update (MFU) was born.
In the spring of 1996, my son suggested to me that we put MFU on the internet. I remember my three-word response to this day: “What’s the internet?”
After he had enlightened his ignorant father, we kicked around the idea for several months. MFU was doing well, and I didn’t want to tinker with success. We decided to try a different concept: an electronic newsletter that would cover all aspects of investing – not just mutual funds but stocks, REITs, bonds, GICs, and anything else that might interest readers. We decided there would be no print version – the cost of production and mailing would be prohibitive. I wanted to keep costs down so we could charge a reasonable price, which I felt would be critical to the success of what was then a radical new venture.
We produced a few trial issues in the late fall of 1996. Then at the start of 1997 we began our first full year of operation. It turned out to be a wild year for the markets, dominated by the Bre-X fiasco, which cost investors billions when the company collapsed. We never recommended the stock, but many analysts did and ended up looking foolish when it was discovered what was touted as one of the biggest gold strikes in history was nothing but a gigantic fraud.
From the outset, the IWB focused on low risk, blue chip securities. During our first year, our picks included Franco-Nevada (still a recommendation), Brascan (now Brookfield, and a huge winner), TransCanada Pipelines (now TC Energy), and Imperial Oil.
Looking back through those early years, I came across the issue of Jan. 3, 2000, when dot.com stocks were soaring. I wrote at the time: “The high-tech party could continue to roar on for months. But the reality is that many of these stocks are extremely expensive and vulnerable to profit-taking at the slightest hint of bad, or even indifferent, news. So, if you’re sitting on some big gains, take a few minutes to review your portfolio and decide whether you want to leave all your chips on the table or put a few in your pocket.”
Three months later, the dot.com bubble burst. It was years before the markets recovered.
In mid-July 2008, shortly after the TSX had hit what was at that time a record high, I wrote: “Remember the old adage: Hope for the best but prepare for the worst? It’s time to dust it off and apply it to your investments. There is a strong odour of bear in the air that I don’t like one bit and I think we need to prepare for the possibility.” My advice was to raise cash to 20-25% and focus on defensive stocks. On Sept. 15 of that year, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and the stock market collapsed.
At the outset, I wrote all the content for the IWB myself. But over time I realized that readers would best be served if we offered the views of other analysts with expertise in a variety of fields. One of the first to be added was Tom Slee, now retired. He created our highly successful Growth Portfolio and brought many profitable recommendations to the newsletter that are still active, including CN Rail, WSP Global, Stantec, and TFI International. Another was Irwin Michael, the founder and manager of the ABC Funds, whose pick of Equitable Group is still making money for us.
Today we have an international team of contributors, including Gavin Graham, Glenn Rogers, Ryan Irvine, Richard Croft, Shawn Allen, and Adam Mayers. Each brings his own unique perspective to the newsletter, along with some hugely profitable recommendations.
Among their big winners are Shopify, up 4,247% as of Feb. 1, Boyd Group Services (3,335%), Enghouse Systems (874%), Alimentation Couche-Tard (502%), Palo Alto Networks (304%), and Microsoft (242%).
This team will carry on after I retire (not any time soon), so the IWB will continue to help to build your wealth for many years to come.
In closing, I would like to thank our members, especially those who have been with us from the start, for making all this possible. We couldn’t have done it without your support.
IWB TOP 10 PICKS FROM 25 YEARS
Shopify (TSX, NDQ: SHOP) +3,846%
Recommended February 24, 2016 by Gordon Pape
Recommended August 30, 2010 by Ryan Irvine
Recommended April 7, 1997 by Gordon Pape
Recommended May 6, 2002 by Tom Slee
Alphabet (NDQ: GOOGL) +843%
Recommended March 10, 2014 by Gordon Pape
Recommended March 7, 2011 by Ryan Irvine
Recommended July 9, 2012 by Tom Slee
Recommended June 11, 2012 by Tom Slee
Recommended August 11, 2008 by Irwin Michael
Recommended August 23, 1999 by Tom Slee