It was hard not to feel a tiny bit of satisfaction when it was discovered earlier this year that billionaire investor Warren Buffett had slipped from his long-held position of richest person in the world to a mere number two, buffeted (fnar, fnar) off the top spot by friend and computer magnate William Henry Gates III.
The investor, who saw the value of his company, Berkshire Hathaway, plummet from $62bn to a mere $37bn during the recession, put the drop down to the fact he had done ‘some dumb things’ during 2008, which included buying oil shares when crude oil prices were at a peak and buying stock in two Irish banks which subsequently saw their share prices plumment.
But a documentary to be screened on BBC Two tonight looks set to reveal that far from losing his magic touch, Buffett remains one of the world’s shrewest investors.
The billionaire, who is due to celebrate his 80th birthday this year, has lived in the same Omaha home for more than 50 years, and has never owned a computer. He has one personal assistant and is reported to hate meetings and busy schedules. In 2006, he announced he would be giving ‘the bulk’ of his fortune to charity, which included a $31bn (19bn) donation to the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation.
His mantra is ‘be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy’: last year, when most other investors wouldn’t touch banks, Buffett was hailed as the ‘saviour’ of US-based investment bank Goldman Sachs when he matched a publicly raised investment of $5bn , seeing the ailing bank’s shares rise 6% within hours of the deal being announced.
What is most impressive, though, is that although he has accrued a huge amount of wealth, Buffett has never actually started his own business. Proof that you don’t need to be an entrepreneur to be considered entrepreneurial.
Watch ‘The World’s Greatest Money Maker: Evan Davis meets Warren Buffett’ tonight at 9pm or tomorrow at 11.20pm on BBC Two – or watch part of the interview here.