Wall Street has its share of celebrity investors. Names that are whispered with reverence for their preternatural ability to foresee market trends. And, fortunately for you, there still isn’t any penalty for plagiarism on Wall Street. While no investor has a perfect track record, mimicking the top investors in the game is a strategy that many have adopted over the years. Here are some of the world’s most successful investors and where they’ve invested their money.
Every conversation on the best investors in the game today seems to begin and end with the Oracle of Omaha. Warren Buffett’s track record of success is beyond impressive, with his net worth exceeding $60 billion in 2008 according to Forbes magazine, at which point he was the wealthiest man in the world (the billions he’s since donated to charity through the Gates Foundation has knocked him down to third on the list). Buffett claims that his investment strategy is “15 percent [Phil] Fisher and 85 percent Benjamin Graham,” focusing on “value investing,” a strategy oriented around seeking out companies with stock prices that belie their intrinsic value. Some of his more notable investments include a 200 million-share investment in Coca Cola (KO), worth over $13 billion, and an $8.7-billion investment in Wells Fargo (WFC) that represents a 14.76 percent stake. But Buffett has been especially active lately, making $23.9 billion in new investments in Q3 of 2011 including $15 billion in equities. The major recipient of this buying spree was International Business Machines Corp (IBM). Buffett bought $10.7 billion of IBM shares, a 5.4 percent stake in the computing giant, citing his belief in the company’s long-term stability.
Carl Icahn, like Buffett, has long been known for his incredible investment savvy, having been a successful market player since the 1960s. Now, Icahn is worth over $16 billion and continues to practice a strategy of buying a minority stake in public companies and then lobbying for changes to management. As of Sept. 30, through investment vehicle Icahn Capital Management LP, Icahn has $1 billion plus investments in four companies not including Icahn Enterprises, L.P. (IEP), the holding company through which he acquires assets. He holds a 10.35-percent stake in the El Paso Corp. (EP), an company working in natural gas, that’s worth $1.153 billion. He’s also heavily invested in Motorola Solutions, Inc. (MSI) to the tune of $1.6 billion, a 14.4-percent stake; Federal-Mogul Corp. (FDML) for $1.12 billion, a 10-percent stake; and Motorola Mobility Holdings, Inc. (MMI) with $1.265 billion in shares and an 11.36-percent stake. In November, Google announced that it would buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, further validating Icahn’s acumen.
While Icahn and Buffett represent investors who have been investing for decades and represent the old guard, David Einhorn’s success has come much more recently. Einhorn runs the hedge fund Greenlight Capital and, at 43 years old, was born in 1968, the same year Icahn founded Icahn & Co. Einhorn, who finished 18th in the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event and purchased a $200-million minority ownership position in the New York Mets in May of this year, has made his reputation with a series of short positions that paid off. Einhorn very publicly locked horns with Allied Capital (ALD) and the SEC in 2002, prompting an investigation of both entities for their attempts to pull a hatchet job on Einhorn’s credibility. However, perhaps his most famous position was a 2007 short of Lehman Brothers (LEHMQ) some 14 months before the firm went bankrupt. More recently, Einhorn engaged in another public battle over suspect accounting practices and what he saw as an inflated share price for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) that ultimately paid off in November when the company’s stock plunged almost 40 percent after missing analyst estimates in its Q3 earnings.
Einhorn’s current investments include a bullish stance on Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX), Microsoft (MSFT), General Motors (GM), CareFusion Corporation (CFN), and Apple (AAPL) with recent big buys of stock in CBS Corporation (CBS) and Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (MRVL).