Columbia University is perennially ranked among the top 10 universities in the world. The Ivy league school boasts a long list of famous alumni including four U.S. presidents: Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Barack Obama. However, the wealthiest alumni are graduates of the Columbia Business School, one of the most selective of the world’s top business schools. Although its list of alumni billionaires covers a range of different industries, most notable among them are some of the most successful investment managers in the United States.
From early childhood, Warren Buffett displayed business smarts and an entrepreneurial drive that led him to enroll at the University of Pennsylvania at the age of 16. After graduating from college at age 20, he enrolled at Columbia Business School to study under a disciple of one of history’s most successful investors, Benjamin Graham. He graduated with a Master of Science in economics in 1951.
Five years later, he started Buffett Partnership Ltd. Utilizing the investment principles he learned from Graham, he developed his own mastery of identifying undervalued companies and patiently holding them as they appreciated in value. In 1965, he assumed control of Berkshire Hathaway, a textile company that became his holding company for managing his investments. Some of his most successful early investments included large stakes in Coca-Cola Co., (NYSE: KO) and Citigroup Global Markets Holdings, a subsidiary of Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C), earning him seats on their board of directors.
With a market capitalization of $535 billion as of February 25, 2020, Berkshire Hathaway was one of the most valuable companies in the world, controlling companies such as Geico, Dairy Queen, and Fruit of the Loom. According to Forbes magazine, Buffett is the third-wealthiest person in the world with a $68.5 billion net worth.
Henry Kravis received a Master of Business Administration degree from Columbia University in 1969. From there, he joined Bear Stearns along with his cousin, George Roberts, working under Jerome Kohlberg Jr. There they learned the practice of bootstrap acquisition, which involved buying stakes in undervalued companies, taking them private, reorganizing them, selling off assets and reselling the company. Not finding any support for their activities from Bear Stearns, the three started their own firm, Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts & Co. LP (KKR), and transitioned into leveraged buyouts using junk bonds to finance their acquisitions.
Over the years, KKR engaged in a number of high-profile takeover battles, and they were largely successful, averaging $50 million in profits a year and a 36% return on their investments. Its most high-profile takeover was the $25-billion acquisition of food and tobacco giant RJR Nabisco, which is now owned by Reynolds American Inc. It was the largest leveraged buyout deal in history and the basis of the best-selling book, “Barbarians at the Gate.” Kravis is also famous for his philanthropy, having donated $100 million to Columbia University to construct two buildings for the business school. Kravis’ net worth is $4.4 billion.
Daniel Loeb graduated from Columbia University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics. Because of the entrepreneurship that ran in his family, Loeb has been fascinated with investing since he was a child. He was an active investor throughout high school and college, managing to generate $120,000 in profits by the time he was a senior at Columbia.
After graduation, Loeb joined Warburg Pincus, a private equity firm where he helped to generate a $20-million profit from one deal. After a brief stint with Citigroup Inc., he started his own hedge fund, Third Point LLC, which he named after a beach in Malibu. Loeb has grown his fund to more than $17.5 billion in assets under management largely through his boardroom activism, which has been marked by some high-profile battles. After taking a 6.7% stake in Yahoo Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO), he helped shake up management and was responsible for bringing in Marissa Mayer as CEO.
Loeb's criticism of Dow Chemical Company’s CEO led him to resign after the company merged with E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (NYSE: DD). According to Forbes Magazine, Loeb is worth $2.6 billion.