The World’s Most Famous Investors

1 minutes reading time
Published 2 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Kasper Karlsson
Updated 6 Feb 2024

Some names simply cannot be overlooked when discussing the financial markets. These influential investors have shaped the investment landscape and set examples for future generations. Through their wisdom, knowledge, and experience, they have not only amassed significant wealth but also profoundly influenced everything from education and corporate strategies to global markets. Let's get to know these renowned investors and explore their impact on the world of business and investing.

The Most Famous Investor: Warren Buffett

Among the most famous investors, Warren Buffett tops the list. His stock-picking skills and consistency, combined with a disciplined approach to value investing, have made him the biggest icon in the investment world. Born in 1930, Buffett is the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, the largest and best-performing holding company of all time.

Under Buffett's leadership, Berkshire Hathaway has consistently outperformed the S&P 500 and almost any other investing benchmark. The company's book value per share, a measure Buffett considers indicative of Berkshire's intrinsic value, has grown at an average annual rate of 19.0% from 1965 to 2020, compared to 10.2% for the S&P 500 with dividends included.

Buffett started investing at the age of 11 and has kept investing ever since with remarkable returns, which ultimately made him the richest man in the world in 2008. His insights and wisdom are so admired that investors and financial enthusiasts often refer to him as the 'Oracle of Omaha.'

Infograph showing Berkshire Hathaway's growth in Book Value per Share since 1955
Berkshire Hathaway book value per share performance

The Titans of the Investment World

Besides Warren Buffett, there are several other notable investors who have made permanent marks on the investment landscape:

Jesse Livermore (1877-1940)

Known for his short-term speculative approach and a strong focus on price action, Jesse Livermore successfully made, and lost, multiple fortunes through his active trading in the stock and commodities markets. Livermore is celebrated for his pioneering work in developing the 'price trend' technique, which emphasized the importance of observing market trends and price movements in making investment decisions.

His insights into understanding market behavior, coupled with his keen sense for timing, have significantly influenced modern trading practices. Tragically, Livermore's life was marked by personal struggle and ended in suicide, but his legacy in the investment world remains highly influential.

Benjamin Graham (1894-1976)

Few names carry as much weight in the world of investing as Benjamin Graham, often referred to as the 'father of value investing'. Graham successfully taught and practiced investment principles that emphasized buying companies at a price less than their intrinsic value with focus on quantitative factors.

He coined the 'margin of safety' principle, which showcased the importance of investing in stocks at prices significantly below their calculated value to allow for unforeseen adverse events. His understanding into assessing a company's intrinsic value, coupled with his risk-averse philosophy, have profoundly shaped modern investment practices. Prominent investors like Warren Buffett, who was one of Graham's students, have openly acknowledged Graham's significant influence on their investment strategies. Graham's contributions also extend to literature, having authored two groundbreaking books: 'Security Analysis' and 'The Intelligent Investor'.

Philip Fisher (1907-2004)

Recognized for his long-term investment approach with a predominant focus on qualitative factors, Philip Fisher successfully ran his investment firm, Fisher & Co, using a strategy of buying and holding high-quality growth companies. Fisher popularized the 'scuttlebutt' technique, which emphasized qualitative analysis in making investment decisions. His ability to find high quality companies that would perform for a long time has significantly shaped modern investment practices. Fisher has, just like Benjamin Graham, been openly recognized for his work by Warren Buffett.

John Templeton (1912-2008)

Known for his pioneering approach to global investing, Sir John Templeton co-founded the investment firm Templeton, Dobbrow & Vance, and created the Templeton Growth Fund in 1954, a major leap in globally diversified mutual funds. Templeton is celebrated for his "bargain hunting" investment style, which emphasized finding and investing in companies trading for less than their intrinsic values. His contrarian and value investing strategies, focused on economic distress and overlooked markets, resulted in impressive returns and reshaped the finance industry.

Charlie Munger (1924-2023)

Widely admired for his disciplined value investing approach and emphasis on ethical business practices, Charlie Munger has served as the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway alongside Warren Buffett since 1978, successfully implementing a strategy of investing in high-quality businesses with durable competitive advantages. Munger is widely known for his "latticework of mental models" approach, which emphasizes the need for multidisciplinary thinking and applying knowledge from different fields to make investment decisions.

Munger’s life is an inspiration for investors, students, and people from all walks of life. His dedication to continuous learning, investment philosophy, and timeless life wisdom are characteristics that have not only built his net worth but also contributed significantly to the lives of those who heed his words. At an impressive age of 99, Munger is a testament to how a life of curiosity, wisdom, and intelligent investing can be fulfilling and impactful.

George Soros (born 1930)

Known for his rather aggressive investment strategy with a primary focus on macroeconomic factors, George Soros successfully led his hedge fund, Soros Fund Management, using a strategy of capitalizing on global economic trends and financial market volatility. Soros is renowned for his "reflexivity" theory, which emphasizes the self-reinforcing effect of market participants' expectations on the actual market fundamentals. His work on global financial systems, combined with his risk-taking approach, still influences modern trading practices.

Carl Icahn (born 1936)

Recognized for his bold investment approach and keen focus on shareholder value, Carl Icahn successfully manages his private holding company, Icahn Enterprises, using a strategy often described as 'activist investing'. Icahn is celebrated for his use of 'proxy battles', a tactic that emphasizes the acquisition of enough voting shares in a company to effect meaningful change in its operations or management. Many investors and corporate leaders, albeit sometimes reluctantly, acknowledge Icahn's considerable influence on their strategic and corporate governance approaches.

Jim Simons (born 1938)

As the founder of Renaissance Technologies, Jim Simons pioneered the use of mathematical models for financial market predictions. His flagship, the Medallion Fund, known for exceptional returns, exemplifies the success of his approach. Simons' emphasis on data-driven investing has deeply impacted modern quantitative finance, setting new standards in the hedge fund industry.

For 33 years, from 1988 to 2021, the Medallion Fund delivered an average annual return of 62%, representing the highest performance ever recorded over such an extended period. This return is equivalent to a staggering 8,203,430% over the 33-year span. Since its inception, the Medallion Fund has lost money in only one year net of fees, which was in 1989. Notably, the fund's returns have been partially negatively correlated with the market, exhibiting a correlation of -0.41.

Peter Lynch (born 1944)

Peter Lynch, a former mutual fund manager, is primarily known for his growth investing strategies and unique thought processes and research methods. He emphasizes the importance of investing in companies that one understands and feels comfortable with, rather than attempting to predict market trends. Lynch is also celebrated as the author of 'One Up On Wall Street', which is among the most popular books ever published in the field of investing.

As the manager of the Fidelity Magellan Fund, Lynch established a record of consistently high returns. During his 13-year tenure, from 1977 to 1990, the Magellan Fund delivered an average annual return of 29.2%, effectively growing the fund's assets from $18 million to $14 billion. This extraordinary performance stands as one of the best records in the history of mutual funds. The fund outperformed the S&P 500 index in 11 of the 13 years under Lynch's leadership, underscoring his ability to identify high-growth companies before they were recognized by the broader market.

Ray Dalio (born 1949)

Ray Dalio, a renowned hedge fund manager, is recognized for his macro investing strategies and unique principles of radical transparency. He emphasizes the importance of understanding and navigating economic cycles and creating well-diversified portfolios, approaches articulated in his book, 'Principles.' Dalio is also acknowledged for his research on "economic machines" and long-term debt cycles, bringing a fresh perspective to macroeconomic understanding.

As the founder of Bridgewater Associates, Dalio established an impressive record of returns. During its 45-year history since its founding in 1975, Bridgewater has delivered an average annual return of roughly 12%, growing the firm's assets to over $150 billion. This performance has made Bridgewater the largest hedge fund in the world. The firm's flagship Pure Alpha fund has outperformed the market in multiple periods of economic downturn, underscoring Dalio's ability to navigate economic cycles successfully.

Joel Greenblatt (born 1957)

Joel Greenblatt promotes the concept of investing in high-quality companies at discount prices, as manifested in his 'Magic Formula.' This formula is a quantitative method of identifying good companies that are trading at lower prices than their intrinsic value. It ranks companies based on two simple metrics – a high return on capital and a high earnings yield. By focusing on these metrics, investors can isolate companies that are both efficient and undervalued.

Greenblatt also mastered the exploitation of 'Special Situations' such as spin-offs, mergers, or restructurings. These unique events can significantly undervalue a company's stock, providing lucrative opportunities for savvy investors. His strategic approach to these situations is detailed in his book 'You Can Be a Stock Market Genius.' Greenblatt is additionally celebrated as the author of 'The Little Book That Beats the Market,' one of the most popular books ever published in the realm of investing.

As the founder of Gotham Capital, Greenblatt achieved an impressive record of high returns. From 1985 to 1994, Gotham Capital delivered average annual returns exceeding 50%. This exemplary performance stands as one of the best records in the history of funds. The continued success of his Gotham Index Plus Fund and other Gotham Funds, consistently outperforming the S&P 500, validates Greenblatt's place among top-tier investors.

What makes for a successful investor?

Successful investors typically possess a broad spectrum of attributes and practices. Fundamental to these skills is a profound understanding of markets, economies, psychology, and individual companies. Patience and the ability to control one's temperament is also critical as investment strategies often involve a long-term approach. For instance, Warren Buffett often underscores the importance of waiting for the right opportunity and letting investments compound over time.

Discipline is just as pivotal, as exemplified by successful investors like Joel Greenblatt who formulated the 'Magic Formula.' Such investors stick to their strategies even in turbulent market conditions, preventing emotions like fear or greed from influencing their decisions.

Risk management is another essential trait of successful investors. They understand the risk-reward trade-off and determine how much risk is acceptable based on the potential reward and financial goals. Adaptability is also crucial as markets are perpetually changing. Successful investors like Jim Simons of Renaissance Technologies, who pioneered quantitative investing, display remarkable flexibility, adjusting his strategies in response to new information or circumstances constantly.

From studying the world's most renowned investors, we've seen that investing is a domain where diverse attributes interlink and different strategies coexist successfully. Nonetheless, one trait common to all successful investors is their intense curiosity – they are authentic 'learning machines,' not only committing to but also relishing the pursuit of lifelong learning.

Conclusion: Lessons from the Titans

The world of investing is a sphere defined by both diversity and unity. Among the world's most famous investors, we see traits such as profound market understanding, patience, discipline, risk management, adaptability, and intense curiosity.

The storied careers of investors like Warren Buffett, Benjamin Graham, and Joel Greenblatt underline the importance of value investing – buying high-quality businesses at less than their intrinsic values. Meanwhile, the quantitative approach of Jim Simons and the global perspective of Sir John Templeton highlight the opportunities for innovation and expansion in the field of investing.

These profiles serve not only as narratives of personal growth and success, but also as guideposts for anyone keen to navigate the investment landscape. As we study the wisdom of these legendary figures, we are reminded that success in investing, like in life, comes not only from knowledge and strategy but also from a deep-rooted sense of curiosity and a lifelong commitment to learning. So, remember to keep learning, stay adaptable, manage your risks, and be patient. The path to success may not be easy, but as these investment titans have shown, it is certainly possible.

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