The Warren Buffett Empire in One Giant Chart
If you look at any ranking of the world’s richest people, you will notice that most of the names derive their wealth from building individual, successful companies.
Topping today’s rich list is Jeff Bezos, who started Amazon in 1994. Further down, you see familiar names like Bill Gates (Microsoft), Amancio Ortega (Zara), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Ellison (Oracle), and so on.
Warren Buffett, who appears third on such a list, is completely unique in this sense. Through his holding company Berkshire Hathaway, he has bought, sold, or invested in hundreds of companies over the years, and their industries are all over the map. These investments include consumer goods companies like Coca-Cola, daily national newspapers like The Washington Post, and insurance companies like GEICO.
Buffett currently owns 36.8% of Berkshire – and at the time of publishing, Berkshire Hathaway is worth an impressive $480 billion, employing 377,000 people across many different industries.
Although Berkshire Hathaway is today associated with Buffett and his long-time partner Charlie Munger, the origins of the company actually stem from 1839.
The original company was a textile mill in Rhode Island, and by 1948 Berkshire employed 11,000 people and brought in $29.5 million in revenue (about $300 million in today’s dollars).
After Berkshire’s stock began to decline in the late 1950s, Buffett saw value in the company and started accumulating shares. By 1964, Buffett wanted out, and the company’s CEO Seabury Stanton tendered an offer to buy Buffett’s shares for $11.37, which was $0.13 less than he had promised.
This made Buffett mad, and instead of taking the offer, he opted to buy more shares. Eventually he took control of the company and fired Stanton.
The company was his, and the rest is history.
In the long-running contest of Warren Buffett vs. the market, the scoreboard isn’t even close:
|Berkshire Hathaway||S&P 500|
|Total gain (1964-2017)||2,404,748%||15,508%|
|Compound annualized gain||20.9%||9.9%|
Source: BH Annual Report. BH’s market value is after-tax, and S&P 500 is pre-tax, including dividends.
If you’re wondering how Warren Buffett developed such an impressive investing record, it’s worth seeing Part 2 of this series: Inside Buffett’s Brain.
Revenue by Business Segments
The Warren Buffett Empire is diverse, and made up of hundreds of companies in different industries.
However, segmenting by revenue does give an idea of how Berkshire makes its money:
|Revenue (Billions, 2017)||% of Total|
|Berkshire Hathaway Energy||$18.9||8%|
|Service and Retailing||$26.3||11%|
The Berkshire Portfolio
Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio can be broken down into two categories: the companies it owns outright (or majority stakes in), and the companies it owns significant investments in.
Companies Owned by Berkshire
Berkshire Hathaway owns well-known brands ranging from Dairy Queen to Duracell. Here are all those companies listed by number of employees:
|Manufacturing||Fruit of the Loom||26,219|
|Manufacturing||The Marmon Group||12,763|
|Railroad and Utilities||BNSF Railways||41,000|
|Railroad and Utilities||Berkshire Hathaway Energy||22,773|
|Service and Retailing||McLane Company||23,859|
|Service and Retailing||NetJets||6,314|
|Service and Retailing||BH Media Group||3,719|
|Service and Retailing||See’s Candies||2,439|
|Service and Retailing||Helzberg Diamonds||2,252|
|Service and Retailing||The Buffalo News||618|
|Service and Retailing||Business Wire||486|
|Service and Retailing||Dairy Queen||464|
|n/a||Berkshire Hathaway Corporate Office||26|
Importantly, you’ll notice that there are only 26 employees in Berkshire Hathaway’s corporate office – that’s because Buffett is adamant that portfolio companies need to be well-managed in their own right, and he thinks this decentralization is a key to his success.
Here are the companies Berkshire Hathaway has significant investments in – the whole portfolio is worth nearly $200 billion:
|Company||Value (Billions)||% of Portfolio|
|Bank of America||20.0||10.5%|
|Bank of NY Mellon||3.3||1.7%|
The portfolio is pretty much a microcosm of the American economy: it features banks, airlines, consumer goods companies, and even tech behemoths like Apple.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that Buffett doesn’t stop there – his company also owns 80 auto dealerships, the second-largest real estate broker in the country (HomeServices of America), and even 32 daily newspapers.
Deals that Made the Empire
The Warren Buffett Empire wouldn’t exist without Buffett being involved in some of most famous deals in business history. Below are some of the big names Buffett has been involved with.
Buffett helped finance the Capital Cities takeover of ABC – at the time, the largest non-oil merger in history. Eventually, CapCities/ABC was sold to Disney.
Before ESPN was the household name it is today, Buffett owned a big chunk of it as an upstart sports brand in 1985, as a part of the CapCities/ABC deal.
Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital led a takeover of Heinz in 2013. This gave Buffett control of trusted brands like HP Sauce, Lea & Perrins, as well as the namesake brand.
Buffett delivered the newspaper as a kid, but later in his life would be the largest outside shareholder of the famous paper.
Buffett helped lead a desperate shakeup at one of Wall Street’s most famous investment banks.
After almost losing all the $358 million he had invested, Buffett called buying preferred shares in the airline one of his biggest mistakes.
Buffett started buying shares in the last 1980s, and became Gillette’s biggest shareholder. Buffett made $4.4 billion in paper profit when it sold the company to Proctor & Gamble.
How to Avoid Common Mistakes With Mining Stocks (Part 2: Business Plan)
Investing in mining stocks may seem like luck of the draw, but the sector can be de-risked by asking the right questions. Here we look at the business plan.
Everyone loves to talk about creating the next great mining business, but are they willing to put that talk into action?
There is real money and real management behind every company—but surprisingly, not every company has a concrete strategy to build a business and create value for shareholders.
Business Plan, or Lack Thereof?
Today’s infographic comes to us from Eclipse Gold Mining and it shows you how to avoid common mistakes when evaluating and investing in mining exploration stocks.
Specifically, we look at five ways that potential investors can detect the presence and viability of a mining company’s business plan.
Visit Part 1 of “Common Mistakes With Mining Stocks” on Team by clicking here
So, what should investors be looking for, when it comes to examining the business plan of a mining exploration company?
#1: Clear Vision vs. All Hope & Dreams
A company should articulate a clear vision rather just simply following the trends and hoping for the best. A long term vision for a business plan is critical as it will be guiding and reminding stakeholders of the company’s purpose through the thick and thin.
Signs of a Clear Vision:
- The company is actively reaching out to investors
- Projects can be profitable at today’s commodity prices
- Provide detailed timelines of work
- Funds committed to work
A clear vision in business will give the company a direction to aim for, allowing everyone to work quickly towards objectives.
#2: Sense of Urgency vs. Wait & See
Time is money, especially in mining. Companies need to build value fast to finance at higher share prices so that early shareholders do not get diluted. A company needs to make concrete decisions that drive towards value creation.
Signs of a Sense of Urgency:
- “Time is now” mentality
- Decisive actions
- Sense of purpose
- Solution-oriented thinking
It is expensive to maintain a company, especially one that does not yet produce income. Expenses add up quickly and that is why management needs to make sure they focus their efforts and money on activities that generate value for shareholders.
#3: Laser Focus vs. Spray & Pray
The mineral exploration business is tough and each project requires the undivided attention of managers. Smart companies maintain incredible focus to de-risk their projects while others spread themselves thin with multiple projects.
- Properties with a focused vision towards production
- Specialized management experience aligned with the project
- Aligning management skill sets with each phase of a project
Signs of a Laser Focus:
In order to assess whether a company has the right focus you have to see whether the company is aligning its human assets with its physical assets and a goal in mind.
This focus will help to clarify the story for investors.
#4: Tell the Story vs. Hiding Behind the Science
Communication and business acumen are the key to take a project to market. Mining requires massive amounts of geological knowledge, but that is not the investor’s job to handle. They do not want to want to know the subtleties of geochemistry—they just want to know whether they can make money from those rocks.
Companies that hide behind a wall of geological slides may not have not a real story to tell, and they may be pulling investors into funding their own science projects. At the same time, investors need to make sure that the data being presented matches the story being told.
Signs of Telling the Story:
- Aware of risks, and communicating those risks
- Clear understanding of local geology
- Data from drill results back up the story
- Consistent message
If a company cannot communicate effectively, how are they going to deal with other, more complicated aspects of a mining business plan?
#5: Endgame in Mind vs. Kicking the Can Down the Road
A journey begins with a single step, but without a business plan and commitment, there will never be an end in sight. Quality companies foresee how their project will come together to generate both liquidity and an exit plan for shareholders. There are several clues investors can use to tell if a company is moving towards its goals.
Signs of the Endgame in Mind:
- List of accomplished goals
- Clear vision of future goals and exit strategy
- Plan for liquidity events for shareholder
The goal in investing is to make money. If shareholders are not making money, what is the point? If a company has no plan, it has no hope.
Making the Right Decisions
Understanding the characters that create value for mining companies is the first step, and the second step is assessing whether there is a viable business plan at hand.
While the risks are high, an effective plan is the first step towards reducing risks and providing shareholders with value.
Golden Bulls: Visualizing the Price of Gold from 1915-2020
We break down gold’s three major bull markets over the last century. This includes the current one, in which gold has hit 8-year highs.
Golden Bulls: Visualizing the Price of Gold from 1915-2020
Some people view gold as a relic, a thing of kings, pirates, and myth. It does not produce income, sits in vaults, and adorns the necks and wrists of the wealthy.
But this too is just myth.
In fact, as a financial asset, gold’s value has shone over time with periods of exceptional performance, one of which may be occurring now.
Today’s infographic comes to us from Sprott Physical Gold Trust and outlines the history of the price of gold from 1915 to 2020 and three bull markets or “Golden bulls” since 1969, using monthly data from the London Bullion Market Association.
But first a little history…
The Gold Standard
*All figures are in USD
During the early days of the American Republic, the U.S. used the British gold standard to set the price of its currency. In 1791, it established the price of gold at $19.75 per ounce but also allowed redemption in silver. In 1834, it raised the price of gold to $20.67 per ounce. The price of gold would retain a nominal value through depressions, civil wars, and wars.
However, $20 today is not the same as $20 in the past. The U.S. dollar may have been convertible at a set price, but the amount of goods that it could buy varies year to year based on inflation. So for example from 1934 to 1938, one ounce of gold would cost $34, but $34 today would purchase a small fraction of an ounce of gold.
While the price of gold may appear cheap in the past, adjusted for inflation it is not as low as you would think. Governments would set the price of its currency against an asset to ensure the stability of prices, however if there would be too many claims against the underlying asset, that asset would run out and the currency would become worthless.
This threat would force the hands of governments to change the standards, as currency became more common and gold reserves more scarce.
An Era of Government Intervention
In the wake of the 1929 stock market crash, investors started redeeming U.S. dollars for its equivalent value in gold, removing currency from the economy. In order to stem the flow of funds into gold and the depletion of government gold reserves, in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt limited the private ownership of gold to discourage hoarding and encourage investing. In 1934, Congress passed the Gold Reserve Act which prohibited the private ownership of gold and nominally raised the price of gold to $35 per ounce.
In 1944, the victorious Allied powers negotiated the Bretton Woods Agreement, making the U.S. dollar the official global reserve currency. The United States ensured an ounce of gold would be worth $35 in its currency—at least until the onset of a stagnant economy in the early Seventies led to the official end of any real gold standard.
Golden Bull #1: December 1969 – January 1980
In 1969, the U.S. gold standard had risen to $42 per ounce in nominal terms, however a period of economic volatility would challenge and change U.S. monetary policy.
On August 15, 1971, President Richard Nixon mandated the Federal Reserve to stop honoring the U.S. dollar’s value in gold at a fixed value, abandoning the gold standard. In 1974, President Gerald Ford would once again allow the private ownership of gold bullion. Energy crises, soaring inflation, and high unemployment stagnated the economy.
By January 1980, the price of gold reached $2,234 per ounce in today’s dollars amidst an environment of double-digit inflation. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker fought this inflation with double-digit interest rates which in turn slowed the economy, causing a recession.
The interest-rate-induced recession would herald in a new global economic boom that defined the Eighties and Nineties. The price of gold dropped to $753.96 per ounce by June 1985, as the economy improved.
From December 1969 to January 1980, gold rose from $285 to $2,234 per ounce, an increase of 684% over 122 months, in inflation-adjusted terms.
Golden Bull #2: August 1999 – August 2011
Expanding household incomes and ever declining interest rates under Federal Reserve chairman Greenspan pushed gold further down to a low of $377.44 per ounce by the end of April 2001.
Loose monetary policy and a reduced tax on capital gains spurred speculative investments into the new internet economy through a growing retail brokerage market and the emergence of venture capital. The tech bubble would eventually pop as these companies were unable to build sustainable businesses and investor money dried up.
Over the year of 2000, investors rushed to exit their speculative tech investments resulting in several market crashes. Then in September 2001, 9/11 happened, marking the beginning of a new era. Gold steadily rose during this period.
In 2008, the Global Financial Crisis shook financial markets and left a recession. Policy makers and central bankers embarked on a controversial policy of quantitative easing to support financial markets. The price of one ounce of gold reached new highs by the end of August 2011, as worries on debt levels mounted for the U.S. and other countries.
From August 1999 to August 2011, gold rose from $394 to $2,066 per ounce, an increase of 425% over 145 months, in inflation-adjusted terms.
Golden Bull #3?: November 2015 – May 2020
In the aftermath of the GFC, the Federal Reserve stoked an economic recovery with cheap money, seeing gold track to a low of $1,050 per ounce by December 2015. It was not until the election of a peculiar American president in 2016 that gold would rise again.
Pressure to increase interest rates, an aging debt-fueled economic recovery, a trade war with China, and the recent COVID-19 crisis has once again provoked economic uncertainty and a renewed interest in gold. With interest rates already at historic lows and quantitative easing as standard operating procedure, global economies are entering unprecedented territory.
There is still little insight into the direction of the economy but since November 2015 to May 2020, the price of gold has risen from $1,146 to $1,726 per ounce, 55% over 55 months.
Gold Going Forward
In an era of tech startups, ETFs, and algorithmic trading, many people consider gold to be a shiny paperweight—however, its performance over time against other assets shows it is far from this.
In 1915, an ounce of gold was worth $488.66 per ounce in today’s dollars and as of May 15, 2020, $1,751 per ounce. Gold has proven its value over time as companies, countries, and governments come and go.
“Golden Bulls” are no periods for idle idol worship. Gold will always be gold, in myth and in fact.
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