“Greed, Fear, and Private Potash” from Andrew Mickey

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, June 18, 2008

Andrew Mickey runs Breakaway Investor and has a new service he’s selling now called Fear and Greed, and he must keep some solid copywriters on the speed dial because we’ve had any number of his teasers get our blood rushing over the past year.

This one’s for a “secret market”, which is a technique he and others have used before — we’ve seen it called the “Phipps Market” at least once, and it’s essentially just a number of different ways for individuals to invest in private equity-type opportunities (or in private equity managers and investment bankers, as we’ve seen with past recommendations of Blackstone et al. I own Blackstone units, for full disclosure).

So apparently, the famous families who have built their riches with private equity — sorry, I mean, in the “secret market” — can teach us a few secrets to make us wealthy beyond the dreams of Avarice …

“Armed with the information in this letter, you’ll be able to write your own financial ticket. You’ll be able to start where you are today and — within the next 12 to 18 months — explode your net worth tenfold.”

“In the long run, this secret market could grow your wealth by 100 times…

“Imagine turning a modest $5,000 into $500,000.

“Imagine investing $7,000 today… only to wake up in a few years and find your bank account brimming with $35 million!

“Imagine being able to quit your job… fire your boss… travel the world… dine in the finest restaurants… and pick up the tab for everyone in the joint without batting an eye.

“That’s the potential of the opportunity I’m going to share with you today.

“But please be warned: It will take a very special person to join our ranks.

“In fact, of the individuals we have selected to receive this letter… only one in 1,000 will be bold enough to respond.”

Very special? Bold? THAT’S ME! I totally need this!

Oh, wait. Let’s look again … hmmm, we’ve got a “could”, three “imagines” one “potential.” A couple “you’ll be able tos” where I’d rather see a “you will.” Let’s slow down a little.

Deep breaths.

I am convinced that I am a special, bold, one-in-a-thousand kind of guy (repeat three times in front of mirror), but I do like looking before I leap.

OK, so what is Mickey selling? Other than the potential to turn $7,000 into $35 million, that is?

Well, of course he’s selling a newsletter subscription — you can subscribe to his new newsletter, Fear and Greed, for a mere $1,250 (which, of course, is a stunning discount from the $4,500 his publisher “insisted” he charge — because YOU are so special).

“Do you have what it takes to step into this exclusive market? Do you have what it takes to get rich?”

Yes! Yes! Are you questioning my heart and desire? Let me give you $1,250 so I can PROVE I have what it takes! Say it to my face, varlet!

Ahem … moving on. Assuming you haven’t already paid the $1,250, perhaps you’d like to know the name of a stock he’s touting in this ad? Maybe the Stock Gumshoe can help with that.

And yes, I challenge you to be one of the few who has the guts to read the rest of this article — for free! (Of course, you’re always welcome to throw a few bucks at the feet of the mighty Gumshoe, if you like).

The most interesting teaser in this ad, which runs to novel-length (or so it feels to a tired old Gumshoe on a sunny afternoon), is about a fertilizer company that has gotten some kind of private equity/venture capital/otherwise “top secret” funding from some zillionaires.

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The temptation is certainly there to invest in such companies — especially for those of us who have not been along for the ride in Potash Corp of Saskatchewan, or Terra Nitrogen, or Mosaic, or whatever highflying fertilizer stock name you’d like to pull out of your hat. And the future does, by many calculations, also look bright — as long as we use food for fuel, and as long as poor people get a little wealthier and want to eat more meat, we’re going to have to keep increasing crop yields, and that does mean more and better fertilizers.

I don’t know if the fertilizer mania will end up being a huge stock market bubble, or where the game of musical chairs might stop, since these companies trade at valuations that they have never seen before, but it’s hard to argue against the basic investing thesis, scary though the valuations can be.

Unfortunately, in the loooong ad we’re given only one real clue as to the name of this fertilizer stock that offers a “secret” private equity way into the back door of that growing market:

“Already, two mega-wealthy venture capitalists have invested over $10 million in this fertilizer company.”

Oooff. OK, so it’s small, it’s probably focused on potash, and two venture capitalists have put in $10 million (apiece? Not sure).

So what could it be?

As you’ll probably guess, this is not one where the Thinkolator can give you a 100% accurate answer — not enough detail for that, and I’m not ponying up $1,250 just to be right. So my guess?

It’s probably Potash North (PON in Canada, PTNHF on the pink sheets). This is a company, backed by Lukas Lundin and the Lundin trust and Robert Friedland, who are both notable early-stage investors in mining and other commodity companies (the Lundins, in particular, are a favorite of many newsletter editors, who like to ride the big Swedish coattails that the late Adolph Lundin fashioned into a commodity powerhouse). This is largely a guess, but it’s also a guess that is shared by a few other folks I’ve corresponded with on this one.

And it has been on an absolutely ridiculous tear this month — up from about .50 to $4, and back down to where it is now, about $2.90 or so. Private placements were issued for these shares at .35 just over a month ago, so fortunes have already been made, primarily because they have permits for potash exploration in Saskatchewan, just down the road (though there probably isn’t a road) from the mines run by Mosaic and POT.

This is certainly a big ‘ol potash producing region, but this is also the kind of early-stage investing that might require a defibrillator for the weak-hearted. They won’t be producing anything from mines on their property for probably at least five years, so we’re counting not on real earnings or anything fun like that, but on continued investor enthusiasm for Potash and, my guess would be, a buyout by a larger company at some point (could be years). Of course, this could be a company that keeps a long-term view and actually builds up to being a big producer like it’s more well-known neighbors, I have no way of knowing — but that will certainly take a long time, profitable though that time might be if Mickey is right.

This commodity trend has now officially gotten out of control — we’ve had our fun with junior gold and copper miners over the years, of course, and some nice runs in silver miners and with oil explorers, and back when other commodities were sleep there was always interest in diamond miners, and who doesn’t love a junior platinum miner or some nice nickel reserves … but did you ever think you’d be getting all hot and bothered about a company with exploration potential to discover large reserves of potassium salts? Five years ago, this would have put people to sleep at a cocktail party — today, if you mention a hot potash junior everyone will be trying to eavesdrop.

Of course, no one was particularly interested in iron ore back then, either.

Mickey tells us …

“Remember, the moment I hear from you, you’ll receive complete details on the fertilizer company I’m currently recommending. Plus, you’ll receive detailed instructions on how to use my secret back door to get in on this deal with a simple seven-minute phone call.”

And if you’re looking at a back door into this particular play, there are a couple possibilities — one is warrants, which I don’t think are listed anywhere for this company, though perhaps they’re buyable with that phone call Mickey’s talking about (I can’t imagine they’re compellingly cheap at the moment, regardless); and the other is Potash One (which just moved to ticker KCL on the Toronto exchange — KCLOF on the pink sheets), a company that owns about 20% of Potash North and has had a little bit of a steadier ride lately (though it’s still up about 50% in the last month, so “steadier” is relative — the move is probably largely due to the Potash North run). Potash One has been around much longer, but is still quite certainly a “junior” and is also primarily an owner of exploration permits in Saskatchewan.

There are all kinds of potash-focused startups and juni