Wall Street Legends No 3 - Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett

Warren Edward Buffett (born August 30, 1930) is an American investor, industrialist and philanthropist. He is widely regarded as one of the most successful investors in the world.

His the primary shareholder, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. He is consistently ranked among the world's wealthiest people. He was ranked as the world's wealthiest person in 2008 and is the third wealthiest person in the world as of 2011.

Buffett is known as the Sage of Omaha and is noted for his adherence to the value investing philosophy and for his personal frugality despite his immense wealth. Buffett is also a notable philanthropist, having pledged to give away 99 percent of his fortune to philanthropic causes, primarily via the Gates Foundation. He also serves as a member of the board of trustees at Grinnell College.

Born in 1930 in Omaha, Nebraska, the second of three children and only son of businessman & politician, Howard Buffett, and his wife Leila (née Stahl). Buffett began his education at Rose Hill Elementary School in Omaha. In 1942, his father was elected to the first of four terms in the United States Congress, and after moving with his family to Washington, D.C., Warren finished elementary school, attended Alice Deal Junior High School, and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1947, where his senior yearbook picture reads: 'likes math; a future stock broker'.

Even as a child, Buffett displayed an interest in making and saving money. He went door to door selling chewing gum, Coca-Cola, or weekly magazines. For a while, he worked in his grandfather's grocery store. While still in high school, he carried out several successful money-making ideas: delivering newspapers, selling golfballs and stamps, and detailing cars, among them. Filing his first income tax return in 1944, Buffett took a $35 deduction for the use of his bicycle and watch on his paper route. In 1945, in his sophomore year of high school, Buffett and a friend spent $25 to purchase a used pinball machine, which they placed in the local barber shop. Within months, they owned several machines in different barber shops.

Buffett's interest in the stock market and investing also dated to his childhood, to the days he spent in the customers' lounge of a regional stock brokerage near the office of his father's own brokerage company. On a trip to New York City at the age of ten, he made a point to visit the New York Stock Exchange. At the age of 11, he bought three shares of Cities Service Preferred for himself, and three for his sister. While in high school he invested in a business owned by his father and bought a farm worked by a tenant farmer. By the time he finished college, Buffett had accumulated more than $90,000 in savings measured in 2009 dollars.

Buffett entered college as a freshmen in 1947 at the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania and studied there for two years from 1947 to 1949. In the year 1950, when he entered his junior year, he transferred to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln where at the age of nineteen, he graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. After the completion of his undergraduate studies, Buffett enrolled at Columbia Business School after learning that Benjamin Graham (author of "The Intelligent Investor" – one of his favorite books on investing) and David Dodd, two well-known securities analysts, taught there. He received a M.S. in Economics from Columbia Business School in 1951. Buffett also attended the New York Institute of Finance. In Buffett’s own words: 'I’m 15 percent Fisher and 85 percent Benjamin Graham. The basic ideas of investing are to look at stocks as business, use the market's fluctuations to your advantage, and seek a margin of safety. That’s what Ben Graham taught us. A hundred years from now they will still be the cornerstones of investing.”

In 1950 Buffett had made and saved $9,800. In April 1952, Buffett discovered Graham was on the board of GEICO insurance. Taking a train to Washington, D.C. on a Saturday, he knocked on the door of GEICO's headquarters until a janitor allowed him in. There he met Lorimer Davidson, Geico's Vice President, and the two discussed the insurance business for hours. Davidson would eventually become Buffett's life-long friend and a lasting influence and later recall that he found Buffett to be an "extraordinary man" after only fifteen minutes. Buffett graduated from Columbia and wanted to work on Wall Street, however, both his father and Ben Graham urged him not to. He offered to work for Graham for free, but Graham refused.

Buffett returned to Omaha and worked as a stockbroker while taking a Dale Carnegie public speaking course. Using what he learned, he felt confident enough to teach an Investment Principles night class at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The average age of his students was more than twice his own. During this time he also purchased a Sinclair Texaco gas station as a side investment. However, this did not turn out to be a successful business venture.

In 1952 Buffett married Susan Thompson at Dundee Presbyterian Church and the next year they had their first child, Susan Alice Buffett. In 1954, Buffett accepted a job at Benjamin Graham's partnership. His starting salary was $12,000 a year (approximately $97,000 adjusted to 2008 dollars). There he worked closely with Walter Schloss. Graham was a tough man to work for. He was adamant that stocks provide a wide margin of safety after weighting the trade-off between their price and their intrinsic value. The argument made sense to Buffett but he questioned whether the criteria were too stringent and caused the company to miss out on big winners that had more qualitative values. That same year the Buffetts had their second child, Howard Graham Buffett. In 1956, Benjamin Graham retired and closed his partnership. At this time Buffett's personal savings were over $174,000 ($1.2 million inflation adjusted to 2009 dollars) and he started Buffett Partnership Ltd., an investment partnership in Omaha.

In 1957, Buffett had three partnerships operating the entire year. He purchased a five-bedroom stucco house in Omaha, where he still lives, for $31,500. In 1958 the Buffett's third child, Peter Andrew Buffett, was born. Buffett operated five partnerships the entire year. In 1959, the company grew to six partnerships operating the entire year and Buffett was introduced to Charlie Munger. By 1960, Buffett had seven partnerships operating: Buffett Associates, Buffett Fund, Dacee, Emdee, Glenoff, Mo-Buff and Underwood. He asked one of his partners, a doctor, to find ten other doctors willing to invest $10,000 each in his partnership. Eventually eleven agreed, and Buffett pooled their money with a mere $100 original investment of his own. In 1961, Buffett revealed that Sanborn Map Company accounted for 35% of the partnership's assets. He explained that in 1958 Sanborn stock sold at only $45 per share when the value of the Sanborn investment portfolio was $65 per share. This meant that buyers valued Sanborn stock at "minus $20" per share and were unwilling to pay more than 70 cents on the dollar for an investment portfolio with a map business thrown in for nothing. This earned him a spot on the board of Sanborn.

In 1962, Buffett became a millionaire, because of his partnerships, which in January 1962 had an excess of $7,178,500, of which over $1,025,000 belonged to Buffett. Buffett merged all partnerships into one partnership. Buffett invested in and eventually took control of a textile manufacturing firm, Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett's partnerships began purchasing shares at $7.60 per share. In 1965, when Buffett's partnerships aggressively began purchasing Berkshire, they paid $14.86 per share while the company had working capital of $19 per share. This did not include the value of fixed assets (factory and equipment). Buffett took control of Berkshire Hathaway at the board meeting and named a new president, Ken Chace, to run the company.

In 1970, as chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett began writing his now-famous annual letters to shareholders. However, he lived solely on his salary of $50,000 per year, and his outside investment income. In 1979, Berkshire began the year trading at $775 per share, and ended at $1,310. Buffett's net worth reached $620 million, placing him on the Forbes 400 for the first time. Buffett became a billionaire on paper when Berkshire Hathaway began selling class A shares on May 29, 1990, when the market closed at $7,175 a share.

In 2008, Buffett became the richest man in the world dethroning Bill Gates, worth $62 billion according to Forbes. Bill Gates had been number one on the Forbes list for 13 consecutive years.

Buffett married Susan Buffett (née Thompson) in 1952. They had three children, Susie, Howard and Peter. The couple began living separately in 1977, although they remained married until her death in July 2004. Their daughter, Susie, lives in Omaha and does charitable work through the Susan A. Buffett Foundation and is a national board member of Girls, Inc. In 2006, on his seventy-sixth birthday, Warren married his never-married longtime-companion, Astrid Menks, who was then sixty years old. She had lived with him since his wife's departure in 1977 to San Francisco. It was Susan Buffett who arranged for the two to meet before she left Omaha to pursue her singing career. All three were close and holiday cards to friends were signed 'Warren, Susie and Astrid'. Susan Buffett briefly discussed this relationship in an interview on the Charlie Rose Show shortly before her death, in a rare glimpse into Buffett's personal life.

Buffett remains an avid player of the card game bridge, which he learned from Sharon Osberg, and plays with her and Bill Gates. He spends twelve hours a week playing the game. In 2006, he sponsored a bridge match for the Buffett Cup. Modeled on the Ryder Cup in golf, held immediately before it, and in the same city, a team of twelve bridge players from the United States took on twelve Europeans in the event. He is a dedicated, lifelong follower of Nebraska football, and attends as many games as his schedule permits.

In June 2006, he announced a plan to give away his fortune to charity, with 83% of it going to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He pledged about the equivalent of 10 million Berkshire Hathaway Class B shares to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (worth approximately US$30.7 billion as of June 23, 2006), making it the largest charitable donation in history, and Buffett one of the leaders of philanthrocapitalism. The foundation will receive 5% of the total donation on an annualised basis each July, beginning in 2006. (Significantly, however, the pledge is conditional upon the foundation's giving away each year, beginning in 2009, an amount that is at least equal to the value of the entire previous year's gift from Buffett, in addition to 5% of the foundation's net assets.) Buffett also will join the board of directors of the Gates Foundation, although he does not plan to be actively involved in the foundation's investments.

Source - www.wikipedia.co.uk

image: © Warren Buffett

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