Mohnish Pabrai is clearly savvy at self-promotion (as I noted elsewhere last year) and a consummate salesman, judging by the hundreds of millions of dollars of assets he's gathered. I think it's clear by now though that he's not a great investor. If it's not, these notes on Pabrai's 2009 Chicago investor meeting, compiled by Miguel Barbosa of Simoleon Sense may be instructive. Reading them, you'll be reminded that Pabrai used to use shares of Berkshire Hathaway as a "placeholder for cash", which made absolutely no sense; that he ignored his own advice about avoiding retailers (not to mention his alleged preference for small caps) when he invested in Sears; and that he has belatedly realized that a highly-leveraged, subprime lender (Compucredit, on which Pabrai took a 72% loss1) might not do well during a credit crunch.
A couple of years ago, I sent a copy of Pabrai's book, The Dhando Investor2, to a friend of mine who works in the Southern California office of a firm that was initially established as the family office for a Gilded Age family, and now handles the finances for other wealthy families. At the time, I figured my friend's firm might be interested in looking at Pabrai as a candidate for its stable of outside investment managers, but now I think a better role for Pabrai would be as a salesman for a wealth management firm (though perhaps one with a lower minimum asset requirement than my friend's firm).
If I were Pabrai, I would quietly approach some leading wealth management/family office firms about them absorbing Pabrai's assets under management and bringing Pabrai on to gather assets for the firm from affluent Indian Americans. Pabrai could probably add more value to his wealthy clients as an excellent salesman than as an investor.
1Pabrai also doubled down on a subprime mortgage lender, Delta Financial Corporation, after the securitization market seized up in August of 2007. He held his stake until that company went bankrupt.
2Pabrai's brief book actually contains some interesting stories about entrepreneurship (Pabrai was an IT entrepreneur before becoming a hedge fund manager), but Pabrai himself ignored some of the lessons in those stories. For example, Pabrai wrote about the ethnic Indians whose businesses were expropriated by Idi Amin, and despite this, Pabrai invested in an oil company based in Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.