Warren Buffett is the chairman and largest shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway, the investment group that’s delivered a 19.8% compounded annual gain in market value since 1965. The Omaha, Nebraska-based company owns Geico, Clayton Homes and Dairy Queen, and has stakes in Coca-Cola and American Express.
The majority of Buffett’s fortune is derived from his interest in Berkshire Hathaway, a publicly traded investment company. Berkshire has delivered a compounded annual gain in per share market value of 19.8% since 1965, according to its 2023 letter to shareholders. Buffett owns about 37.9% of the Class A shares and less than 0.001% of the Class B shares, according to company filings from June and August 2023.
The billionaire also owns a less than 1% stake in U.S. Bancorp, according to a November 2022 13G filing.
In the 2011 shareholders letter, Buffett said Berkshire represents “more than 98%” of his net worth. Based on the value of his Berkshire shares on Feb. 25, 2012 — the date of the letter — the value of his non-Berkshire investments was calculated to be between $500 million and $900 million. In a separate letter to US Congressman Tim Huelskamp dated Oct. 11, 2011 Buffett said he had adjusted gross income of $62.9 million in 2010. Because Berkshire shares don’t pay dividends, the income implies that the non-Berkshire assets were valued at about $500 million if he had investment returns of 13%.
A non-Berkshire stock portfolio of $533 million was calculated for 2010, consisting of $61 million in Wells Fargo stock he held directly at that time based on SEC filings and $472 million in cash representing undisclosed share holdings. The value of the cash figure has been adjusted since then based on market performance, dividends, share purchases and taxes.
Debbie Bosanek, Buffett’s assistant, said he declined to comment.
Education: Columbia University, University of Nebraska
Nebraska-born Warren Buffett demonstrated an early knack for making money, delivering newspapers and selling candy and magazines door-to-door. He bought his first stock a year after visiting the New York Stock Exchange at age 11: three preferred shares of Cities Service. In 1950, he applied to Columbia University after discovering that Benjamin Graham and David Dodd, authors of the book “The Intelligent Investor,” taught there. After getting a master’s degree in economics, he worked as a securities analyst and stockbroker before starting his own investment firm, Buffett Partnership.
He began buying shares of distressed textile manufacturer Berkshire Hathaway in 1962, ultimately taking over as chairman and using it as a holding company. Since then, he’s returned more than 20% compounded annually. Known as a buy-and-hold value investor, Buffett typically buys stakes in — or purchases outright — companies whose business operations he says are easily understandable.
During the recession of the late 2000s, he served as a white knight-at-large, coming to the rescue of Goldman Sachs, General Electric and Swiss Re, while rejecting pleas from Lehman Brothers Holdings. He made what he called a big bet on the American economy in 2009, buying Burlington Northern Santa Fe for $34 billion.
Buffett has pledged to give away most of his fortune by his death, much of it going to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
- 1930 Warren Edward Buffett is born in Omaha, Nebraska.
- 1951 Graduates from Columbia University with an economics degree.
- 1952 Marries Susan Thompson. The couple have three children together.
- 1959 Introduced to Charlie Munger, who becomes lifelong business partner.
- 1970 Becomes chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
- 1976 Berkshire shares rise more than 129 percent this year, their biggest gain.
- 2006 Marries Astrid Menks two years after the death of first wife, Susan.
- 2013 Berkshire Hathaway and 3G agree to buy Heinz for $23 billion.