In every field of human endeavor, an elite few shine brighter than the rest. Some disciplines don’t lend themselves well to objective comparisons.
It’s truly fascinating to see how the best investors of all time built their fortunes, so here are Five of the best investors ever, in all their glory.
Bill Miller has done something that many of the greatest investors ever have never accomplished: Over a 15-year period (1991-2005), Miller’s Legg Mason Value Trust beat the S&P 500 every year. Morningstar.com named him the “Fund Manager of the Decade” in 1999. Between 1990 and 2006, Miller grew his fund from $750 million to more than $20 billion in assets under management. An unconventional value investor, Miller believes high-growth stocks can be value stocks if they trade for the right price.
Warren Buffett is widely considered the single best investor of all time, and that’s simply because his numbers are so otherworldly. Since taking the helm at Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (ticker: BRK.A, BRK.B) in 1965, Buffett returned 19.8% annually for shareholders through the end of 2022, while the S&P 500 posted half those average annual returns (9.9% per year). The duration, consistency and magnitude of these exceptional returns are literally unmatched, and helped earn early (and even somewhat late-coming) shareholders a fortune.
While Kirk Kerkorian wasn’t a stock market guru, he was a legendary investor all the same. Born to immigrants, he saved his earnings as a pilot during World War II, bought a $5,000 Cessna and briefly flew commercially before buying the small Trans International Airlines for $60,000 in 1947. He grew it dramatically and sold it for $104 million in 1968. He parlayed his riches into Las Vegas and Hollywood, building several massive resorts and casinos and acquiring Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Upon his death in 2015, Kerkorian was worth around $4 billion.
John “Jack” Bogle is the only investor on this list who made his fortune merely attempting to match the returns of the overall market. His groundbreaking idea was the low-cost index fund, a passive mutual fund that seeks to replicate the returns of benchmark indexes through buying and holding their components. He founded The Vanguard Group in 1974, and the flagship Vanguard 500 Index Fund (VFIAX) was opened in 1975 as the first index mutual fund. Today, Vanguard offers more than 430 funds across the world with more than $7 trillion in assets under management.
Like Kerkorian, Jerry Buss has an enviable rags-to-riches story – and he didn’t use the stock market to build his wealth. As a child, Buss worked odd jobs shoe-shining and ditch-digging to get by. After college, he and four other investors put down $6,000 and borrowed $100,000 to buy a 14-unit apartment building in 1959 that would morph into a $350 million real estate business within 18 years. He bought the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, the Forum and another property for $67.5 million in 1979. At the time of his death in 2013, Buss’ net worth was reportedly somewhere around $600 million.