Great Investors Not Named Buffett
Sometimes it feels as though the name Warren Buffett is morphing into something like the legend of Bloody Mary - say his name three times in a column about investing and readers suddenly appear. It is very much worth mentioning, though, that Warren Buffett is simply one example of a successful investor and businessman. Granted, Mr. Buffett is an excellent example of a successful investor, but readers might be interested in considering the approaches and track records of other investors that have enjoyed considerable professional success, but do not necessarily get the same publicity as Warren Buffett. (This esteemed investor rarely changes his long-term investing strategy, no matter what the market does. See Warren Buffetts Bear Market Maneuvers.)
Perhaps it would have seemed impossible to imagine as he was living through World War II, but George Soros became one of the most successful investors in history. With a current net worth north of $14 billion, Soros is largely retired as an active investor. However, he established a remarkable record while running the Quantum Group of hedge funds.
Soros is mostly known for his successes in making large bets in the currency and commodity markets. The most famous success story of his career is most likely Britains Black Wednesday currency crisis, where Soros correctly surmised that the country would have to devalue the pound and reportedly made around $1 billion on his positions.
Whereas Buffett is famous for carefully evaluating individual companies and holding those positions for years, Soros was much more inclined to base his investment decisions on what would be considered macroeconomic factors. Whats more, investments in the currency and commodity markets do not lend themselves to multi-decade (or even multi-month) commitments, so Soros was a much more active investor. (George Soros spent decades as one of the worlds elite investors, and even he didnt always come out on top. But when he did, it was spectacular. Check out George Soros: The Philosophy Of An Elite Investor.)
Some will question whether Perelman is properly called an investor. Though no one will dispute that a net worth of approximately $12 billion entitles him to be seen as a significant success in business, Pererlmans activities have centered on acquiring businesses outright, refocusing them on core competencies (often through spin-offs) and then either selling the companies later at a profit or holding onto them for the cashflow they produce. In that latter regard, though, Perelman is not so unlike Buffett - much of Buffetts success can be tied to the prudent acquisition of value-creating businesses within Berkshire Hathaway.
While Perelman has frequently faced criticism for his acquisition tactics and management decisions, he has nevertheless had many successful transactions, including his involvement in Marvel, New World Communications and several thrifts, savings and loans and banks.
With about $16 billion in net worth, John Paulson is arguably the most successful hedge fund investor today. What makes that even more impressive is that he founded Paulson