Covington investor wins '04 Northwest Stock Contest

Leon Lyman's alias became a promise: Here to Win.

In real life, Lyman leaves most of his investments in the hands of professionals, but in The Seattle Times 2004 Northwest Stock Contest, he decided to have a little fun.

Lyman, who won the contest, picked stocks he would never want to see in his actual portfolio.

"I wish I had put my real money into those stocks ... a lot of money," the Covington man said.

Lyman, 58, owns a business that sells construction materials to contractors. He has been investing for about 20 years and was a first-time player in The Times' contest. As the winner, he will be invited to The Times to meet Business News editors and writers, and receive a gift.

His strategy differed from his actual investing because of the contest's time element. Only having a year to win big meant taking different kinds of risks.

"I just kind of did a formula on earnings yield times relative timing and then I fine-tuned it," Lyman said. His portfolio included such local companies as Zones, TRM and Cost-U-Less and finished with an 89 percent return.

"I wanted companies that were somewhat diversified and I eliminated all the companies whose stock price was over $20."

The third-place winner had a similar technique. Les Wells looked for stocks with the lowest price-to-sale ratio — very undervalued stocks. Oregon Steel Mills was his biggest gainer, up 250 percent for the year.

"I was No. 1 for about four months straight, then Bush won," said Wells, who won the contest last year. "I knew I'd be burned. I knew the stock market would rally; mine are pretty much tied to the dollar because they are commodities like gold and silver."

Wells won first-place last year, earning him a tour of The Seattle Times and lunch with the business editor. This year he will get an item of his choice from the paper's store.

Second place went to Greg Davidson, whose alias was "Donttellthejury." Davidson's portfolio ended the year up 82 percent. Zones and Oregon Steel Mills were among his 10 picks.

The contest has been discontinued this year as the result of waning interest. About 1,000 readers participated in the contest for 2004. The portfolio with the 10 most-picked stocks by readers finished the year with a 13 percent return. The random portfolio finished the year up 8.83 percent, about the same as the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

Lyman's winning picks
Stock '04 % chg
Zones +290
TRM +178
Cost-U-Less +127
Greenbrier +102
Emeritus +57
American Ecology +46
Willamette Valley Vineyards +41
American Pacific Bank +33
Elmer's Restaurants +14
Paulson Capital -9