|Born:||Omaha, Nebraska, in 1930|
|Most Famous For:||Referred to as the "Sage" or "Oracle" of Omaha, Warren Buffett is widely viewed as one of the most successful investors in history.
Following the principles set out by Benjamin Graham, he has amassed a personal multibillion dollar fortune mainly through investing in stocks and buying companies through Berkshire Hathaway. Shareholders in Berkshire Hathaway who invested $10,000 in the company in 1965 are above the $50 million mark today. Now in his 70s, Buffett has yet to write a single book, but among investment professionals and the investing public, there is no more respected voice. (To learn more, read Warren Buffett: How He Does It and What Is Warren Buffett\'s Investing Style?)
In 2006, Buffett announced that he would pledge much of his reported $44 billion in stock holdings to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ($31 billion) and four other charities ($6 billion) started by members of his family. (For more insight, see The Christmas Saints Of Wall Street.)
Warren Buffett graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1950 with a Bachelor of Science degree. After reading "The Intelligent Investor" by Benjamin Graham, he wanted to study under Graham, and did so at Columbia University, obtaining his Master of Science degree in business in 1951.
He then returned to Omaha and formed the investment firm of Buffett-Falk & Company, and worked as an investment salesman from 1951 to 1954. During this time, Buffett developed a close relationship with Graham, who was generous with his time and thoughts. This interaction between the former professor and student eventually landed Buffett a job with Graham's New York firm, Graham-Newman Corporation, where he worked as a security analyst from 1954 to 1956. These two years of working side-by-side with Graham and analyzing hundreds of companies were instructive years that formed the foundation for Buffett's approach to successful stock investing.
Wanting to work independently, Buffett returned home once again to Omaha and started a family investment partnership at age 25 with a starting capital base of $100,000. From 1956 to 1969, when the Buffett partnership was dissolved, investors, including Buffett, experienced a thirty-fold gain in their value per share. Prior to the final decision to liquidate the partnership, Buffett had acquired the unprofitable Berkshire Hathaway textile company in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1965. After acquiring Berkshire, Buffett effected a successful turnaround of the company, which focused on changing the company's financial framework. Berkshire kept its textile business, even in the face of mounting pressures, but also used the company as a holding company for other investments.
It was in the 1973-74 market collapse that Berkshire got the opportunity to purchase other companies at bargain prices. Buffett went on a buying spree, which included an investment in The Washington Post. The rest is history and today, Berkshire Hathaway is a massive holdings company for a variety of businesses with assets and sales totaling, approximately, $240 billion and $100 billion, respectively, for year-end 2006.
Warren Buffett's investing style of discipline, patience and value has consistently outperformed the market for decades.
John Train, author of "The Money Masters"(1980), provides us with a succinct description of Buffett's investment approach: "The essence of Warren's thinking is that the business world is divided into a tiny number of wonderful businesses – well worth investing in at a price – and a large number of bad or mediocre businesses that are not attractive as long-term investments. Most of the time, most businesses are not worth what they are selling for, but on rare occasions the wonderful businesses are almost given away. When that happens, buy boldly, paying no attention to current gloomy economic and stock market forecasts."
Buffett's criteria for "wonderful businesses" include, among others, the following:
- They have a good return on capital without a lot of debt.
- They are understandable.
- They see their profits in cash flow.
- They have strong franchises and, therefore, freedom to price.
- They don't take a genius to run.
- Their earnings are predictable.
- The management is owner-oriented.
Buffett has not, as yet, authored any books. However, his annual letters to the shareholders in Berkshire Hathaway's annual report are a suitable substitute. Back copies of these 20-page masterpieces of investing wisdom are available from 1977 through 2006 (updated annually) from Berkshire's Website.
- "Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist" by Roger Lowenstein (1996).
- "Warren Buffett Speaks: Wit And Wisdom From The World's Greatest Investor" (1997)
- "The Warren Buffett Way" by Robert G. Hagstrom (2005)
"Rule No.1 is never lose money. Rule No.2 is never forget rule number one."
"Shares are not mere pieces of paper. They represent part ownership of a business. So, when contemplating an investment, think like a prospective owner."
"All there is to investing is picking good stocks at good times and staying with them as long as they remain good companies."
"Look at market fluctuations as your friend rather than your enemy. Profit from folly rather than participate in it."
"If, when making a stock investment, you're not considering holding it at least ten years, don't waste more than ten minutes considering it."The Greatest Investors: David Dreman
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