Warren Buffett turns 80 on Monday, an age at which most people have been retired for a decade. This seems as good a time as any to take stock of a remarkable life in business.
The Third Richest Man in the World
In March Buffet claimed that money put into his flagship company, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) had returned an average of 20% in annualized gains over a 45-year period. He is the third richest man in the world with a net worth of $47 billion, according to Forbes. In 2006 he said he would give most of his fortune to charity. He has pledged to donate all of his Berkshire shares to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which may make it the largest philanthropic institution in the world.
Berkshire is one of the largest conglomerates in the world. It's corporate website lists over 50 companies under one giant umbrella. These range from his largest acquisition -- the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, a $26 billion purchase he finalized last year -- to smaller outfits like The Buffalo News and the Nebraska Furniture Mart. And yet, his salary is a mere $100,000 a year.
The 'Oracle of Omaha' is Still a Rock Star
Buffett has had an unusual personal life. He married Susan Thomson in 1962 and has three children. For much of his marriage, he lived with his mistress Astrid Menks, whom he married after his wife died. He is frugal in much of his life, but flies private planes, mostly from the NetJets operation owned by, you guessed it, Berkshire.
Known as "The Oracle of Omaha" for his market insights, Buffett has become a cult figure. His opinions appear regularly in the media. He spends a large amount of his time giving interviews about the economy. Last year, the Berkshire annual meeting attracted 40,000 shareholders to the company's headquarters in Nebraska.
As he closes in on 80 years old, Buffett shows no signs of slowing down and Berkshire has announced no successor, although the matter is one of endless debate. It is too early to say what his legacy will be. CNN recently ran a long list of Buffett accolades. Whatever else is remembered of him, he will certainly be considered one of the most successful investors in American history.
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