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The 5 Richest Investors in the World

By Alex Dumortier, CFA - Updated Mar 7, 2018 at 2:41PM

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With an aggregate net worth in excess of $160 billion, these billionaires are the five-richest investors in the world.

This article was updated on Nov. 6, 2017, and originally published on May 15, 2016.

When it comes to investing, there's an obvious scorecard: accumulated wealth. The five billionaires below are the richest -- and arguably, therefore, the most successful -- investors in the world.

stack of gold bars

Image source: Getty Images.

No. 1: Warren E. Buffett

Net worth: $78.9 billion (as of Nov. 22, per the Bloomberg Billionaires Index)

Education: B.A. (Business Administration), University of Nebraska-Lincoln; M.S. (Economics), Columbia Business School

Source of wealth: Largest shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A 1.69%) (BRK.B 1.64%)

Investing style: Value investing with an emphasis on quality. Having begun his career looking for "cigar butts" -- i.e., cheap, unwanted stocks without much long-term value -- in the style of Ben Graham, Buffett now seeks to invest in or acquire businesses with a durable competitive advantage at a reasonable price.

Track record: From 1965 through 2016, Berkshire Hathaway's share price has compounded at an annualized rate of 20.8% -- over 11 percentage points more than the S&P 500 (including reinvested dividends).

From 1957 through 1968, limited partners in the Buffett Partnership achieved an annualized return of 25.3% net of fees -- 16.2 percentage points ahead of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Before Buffett's performance fee, the annualized return was 31.6%.

Great quotes:

"I never attempt to make money on the stock market. I buy on the assumption that they could close the market the next day and not reopen it for five years."

"Charlie [Munger] and I have not learned how to solve difficult business problems. What we have learned is to avoid them."

Fun Fact: According to his biography, The Snowball, Buffett filed his first income tax return at 14, deducting his bicycle and his watch as business expenses, with the knowledge that this was "questionable." His tax bill was $7.

No. 2: Jorge Paulo Lemann

Net worth: $30.5 billion

Source of wealth: A founding partner of broker-dealer Garantia and of investment firm 3G Capital (along with Marcel Telles, see below), Lemann parlayed a $50 million investment in a Brazilian brewer into a major interest in the world's largest beer company, Anheuser-Busch InBev SA. 3G Capital also owns interests in Restaurant Brands International Inc (Burger King, Popeyes, Tim Hortons) and Kraft Heinz Co.

Education: B.A. (Economics), Harvard College

Investing style: Engaged value investing. 3G Capital is a control investor that has a predilection for consumer brands in food and beverages -- and for serial dealmaking.

Track record: From Jul. 1, 2004 through 2012, 3G Capital's limited partners achieved an annualized return of 11.3% (net of fees) versus 4.8% for the S&P 500.

Great quotes:

"My biggest success in business was the discovery some 40 years ago that by attracting excellent people to work with me and giving them a chance to grow, I would go much further than I would by myself."

"A great deal is one that is long-lasting and sustaining."

"A dream big and challenging makes everyone row in the same direction."

Fun fact: Lemann is a five-time Brazilian national champion in tennis.

No. 3: Carl Icahn

Net worth: $19.0 billion

Education: B.A. (philosophy), Princeton University

Source of wealth: Owns 89% of holding company Icahn Enterprises LP (IEP 0.54%) and invests his personal assets through privately held Icahn Partners and other entities.

Investing style: A highly opportunistic form of value investing, with a pugnacious activist bent.

Track record: From the beginning of 1988 through Oct. 31, 2017, units of Icahn Enterprises LP produced an annualized return of 9.5%, with dividends reinvested, against 10.5% for the S&P 500. An article in Kiplinger claims that Icahn compounded his initial $100,000 investment with Icahn & Co. at an annualized rate of 31% between 1968 through 2011.

Great quotes:

"The cardinal rule is to have enough capital at the end of the day."

"The funny, ironic part is if you [live by your word], over the years, it really pays off tremendous dividends."

In response to an angry bondholder who asked him during Trump Entertainment Resorts' restructuring what price he had paid for his bonds: "We're both on a life raft right now. And it's sinking. It doesn't matter who got on first. We have to do something to save ourselves."

"Empiricism says knowledge is based on observation and experience, not feelings. In a funny way, studying twentieth-century philosophy trains your mind for takeovers... There's a strategy behind everything. Everything fits. Thinking this way taught me to compete in many things, not only takeovers but chess and arbitrage."

Fun fact: Icahn dropped out of the NYU School of Medicine after two years.

No. 4: James Simons

Net worth: $15.7 billion

Education: BS (mathematics), MIT; Ph.D. (mathematics), UC Berkeley

Source of wealth: Founding partner of quantitative hedge-fund manager Renaissance Technologies LLC.

Investing style: Highly quantitative and data driven, Renaissance hunts for non-random price patterns.

Track record: From 1994 through mid-2014, Renaissance's flagship Medallion fund earned an average annual return of 71.8%, before fees! No wonder investors were willing to pay the eye-watering fees: 5% of assets and 44% of investment profits.

Great quotes:

"One can predict the course of a comet more easily than one can predict the course of Citigroup's stock. The attractiveness, of course, is that you can make more money successfully predicting a stock than you can a comet."

"Luck plays a meaningful role in everyone's lives."

"I have one guy who has a Ph.D. in finance. We don't hire people from business schools. We don't hire people from Wall Street. We hire people who have done good science."

Interesting fact: In 1967, Simons was working as a cryptographer for the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA). That year, the President of the IDA, General Maxwell Taylor wrote an article for the New York Times magazine outlining his view that the war in Vietnam was going swimmingly (he had previously served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Kennedy). Dismayed by the article, Simons fired off a letter to the New York Times that made plain that he did not share his superior's analysis of the conflict. Simons alerted his immediate boss to his action, who, in turn, alerted General Taylor and was then forced to summarily fire the young mathematician.

No. 5: Marcel Herrmann Telles

Net worth: $14.5 billion

Education: B.A. (Economics), Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro

Source of wealth: An early hire at Jorge Lemann's broker-dealer, Garantia, and a founding partner of 3G Capital, Telles is a major shareholder in the world's largest beer company, Anheuser-Busch InBev SA. 3G Capital also owns interests in Restaurant Brands International Inc (Burger King, Popeyes, Tim Hortons) and Kraft Heinz Co.

Investing style: Engaged value investing. 3G Capital is a control investor that has a predilection for consumer brands in food and beverages -- and for serial dealmaking.

Great quotes:

"A company can seize extraordinary opportunities only if it is very good at the ordinary operations."

"The things we really knew how to do, in the bank [Garantia], was how to recruit, train and keep the best people, because that was the only asset of the bank."

"Stock options is [sic] the following: The upside is mine, the downside belongs to the company -- I will just move across the street. So I'm not a big believer in options. If you are a real owner -- if it really hurts in you -- anything that goes wrong with the company, or that could go wrong, then your attitude is totally different."

"When the dream is big, there's room for all."

Fun fact: According to Bloomberg, Telles encouraged Brahma employees to wear jeans when he headed the Brazilian brewer.

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Stocks Mentioned

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Stock Quote
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
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Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Stock Quote
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
$277.50 (1.64%) $4.48
Icahn Enterprises L.P. Stock Quote
Icahn Enterprises L.P.
$48.38 (0.54%) $0.26

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