Warren Buffett’s investing track record is nearly impeccable.
Over his lifetime, Buffett has built Berkshire Hathaway into one of the biggest companies in American history, amassed a personal fortune of over $80 billion, and earned acclaim as one of the world’s foremost philanthropists.
But in a 75-year career, it’s no surprise that even Buffett has made the odd blunder – and there’s one that he claims has ultimately costed him an estimated $200 billion!
The Warren Buffett Series
Part 4: Buffett’s Biggest Wins and Fails
Today’s infographic highlights Buffett’s investing strokes of genius, as well as a few decisions he would take back.
It’s the fourth part of the Warren Buffett Series, which we’ve done in partnership with finder.com, a personal finance site that helps people make better decisions – whether they want to dabble in cryptocurrencies or become the next famous value investor.
Note: New series parts will be released intermittently. Stay tuned for future parts with our free mailing list.
How did Buffett go from local paperboy to the world’s most iconic investor?
Here are the backstories behind five of Warren’s biggest acts of genius. These are the events and decisions that would propel his name into investing folklore for centuries to come.
Buffett’s 5 Biggest Wins
From making shrewd value investing calls to taking advantage of misfortune in the salad oil market, here are some of the stories that are Buffett classics:
1. GEICO (1951)
At 20 years old, Buffett was attending Columbia Business School, and was a student of Benjamin Graham’s.
When young Buffett learned that Graham was on the board of the Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO), he immediately took a train to Washington, D.C. to visit the company’s headquarters.
On a Saturday, Buffett banged on the door of the building until a janitor let him in, and Buffett met Lorimer Davidson – the future CEO of GEICO. Ultimately, Davidson spent four hours talking to this “highly unusual young man”.
He answered my questions, taught me the insurance business and explained to me the competitive advantage that GEICO had. That afternoon changed my life.
– Warren Buffett
By Monday, Buffett was “more excited about GEICO than any other stock in [his] life” and started buying it on the open market. He put 65% of his small fortune of $20,000 into GEICO, and the money he earned from the deal would provide a solid foundation for Buffett’s future fortune.
Although Buffett sold GEICO after locking in solid gains, the stock would rise as much as 100x over time. Buffett bought his favorite stock again a few years later, loaded up further during the 1970s, and eventually bought the whole company in the 1990s.
2. Sanborn Maps (1960)
This early deal may not be Buffett’s biggest – but it’s the clearest case of Benjamin Graham’s influence on his style.
Sanborn Maps had a lucrative business around making city maps for insurers, but eventually its mapping business started dying – and the falling stock price reflected this trend.
Buffett, after diving deep into the company’s financials, realized that Sanborn had a large investment portfolio that was built up over the company’s stronger years. Sanborn’s stock was worth $45 per share, but the value of the company’s investments tallied to $65 per share.
In other words, these investments held by the company were alone worth more than the stock – and that didn’t include the actual value of the map business itself!
Buffett accumulated the stock in 1958 and 1959, eventually putting 35% of his partnership assets in it. Then, he became a director, and convinced other shareholders to use the investment portfolio to buy out stockholders. He walked away with a 50% profit.
3. The Salad Oil Swindle (1963)
For a value investor like Buffett, every mishap is a potential opportunity.
And in 1963, a con artist named Anthony “Tino” De Angelis inadvertently set Buffett up for a massive home run. After De Angelis attempted to corner the soybean oil market using false inventories and loans, the market subsequently collapsed.
American Express – the world’s largest credit card company at the time – got caught up in the disaster, and its stock price halved as investors thought the company would fail.
Although everyone else panicked, Buffett knew the scandal wouldn’t affect the overall value of the business. He was right – and bought 5% of American Express for $20 million. By 1973, Buffett’s investment increased ten times in value.
4. Capital Cities / ABC (1985)
In the 1980s, corporate raiders and takeover madness reigned supreme.
The massive TV network ABC found itself vulnerable, and sold itself to a company that promised to keep its legacy intact. Capital Cities, a relative unknown and a fraction of the size, had somehow managed to buy ABC.
The CEO of Cap Cities, Tom Murphy – one of Buffett’s favorite managers in the world – gave Warren a call:
Pal, you’re not going to believe this. I’ve just bought ABC. You’ve got to come and tell me how I’m going to pay for it.
– Tom Murphy, Capital Cities CEO
Berkshire dropped $500 million to finance the deal. This turned Buffett into Murphy’s much-needed “900-lb gorilla” – a loyal shareholder that would hold onto shares regardless of price, as Murphy figured out how to turn the company around.
It turned out to be a fantastic gamble for Buffett, as Capital Cities/ABC sold to Disney for $19 billion in 1995.
5. Freddie Mac (1988)
Buffett started loading up on shares of Freddie Mac in 1988 for $4 per share.
By 2000, Buffett noticed the company was taking unnecessary risks to deliver double-digit growth. This risk, and its short-term focus, turned Buffett off the company. As a result, at a share price close to $70, he sold virtually all of his holdings, enjoying a return of more than 1,500%.
I figure if you see just one cockroach, there’s probably a lot.
– Warren Buffett
Later on, Freddie Mac’s business would collapse in the housing crisis, only to be taken over by the U.S. federal government. Today, its stock sells for a mere $1.50 per share.
Over the course of 75 years, it’s not surprising that even Buffett has made some serious mistakes. Here are his costliest ones:
1. Berkshire Hathaway (1962)
When Buffett first invested in Berkshire Hathaway, it was a fledgling textile company.
Buffett eventually tried to pull out, but the company changed the terms of the deal at the last minute. Buffett was spiteful, and loaded up with enough stock to fire the CEO that deceived him.
The textiles business was terrible and sucked up capital – and Berkshire unintentionally would become Buffett’s holding company for other deals. This mistake, he estimates, costed him an estimated $200 billion.
2. Dexter Shoes (1993)
Dexter Shoe Co. had a long, profitable history, an enduring franchise, and suberb management. In other words, it was the exact kind of company Buffett liked.
Buffett dropped $433 million in 1993 to buy the company, but the company’s competitive advantage soon waned. To make matters worse, Warren Buffett financed the deal with Berkshire’s own stock, compounding the mistake hugely. It ended up costing the company $3.5 billion.
To date, Dexter is the worst deal that I’ve made. But I’ll make more mistakes in the future – you can bet on that.
– Warren Buffett
Later on, Buffett would say that this deal deserved a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as a top financial disaster.
3. Amazon.com (2000s)
Buffett says not buying Amazon was one of his biggest mistakes.
I did not think [founder Jeff Bezos] could succeed on the scale he has. [I] underestimated the brilliance of the execution.
– Warren Buffett
Given that Amazon has shot up in value to become one of the most valuable companies in the world, and that Jeff Bezos is by now the far richest person globally, it’s fair to say this whiff continues to haunt Buffett to this day.
The Best Selling Vehicles in America, By State
From Fords in the Midwest to Toyotas on the coasts, here are the best selling vehicles in America, visualized by state.
The Best Selling Vehicles in America, By State
From Ford trucks in the Midwest to Toyotas on the coasts, the best selling vehicles in America reveal a lot about the country.
Compared to other countries with fewer highways or narrower roads, the U.S. is very much a truck-friendly country. Across the U.S., the most sold vehicle in 2019 was the Ford F-Series of trucks, primarily the F-150.
As the home of the world’s pioneer automotive manufacturers, including Ford and GM, consumers primarily purchase local brands. But that hasn’t stopped Toyota, the largest foreign manufacturer in the world, from also gaining a foothold.
This graphic uses 2020 sales data from automotive information resource Edmunds.com, breaking down the best selling vehicles in each state through new vehicle retail registration.
What Are the Best Selling Vehicles in Each State?
Despite a slowdown in vehicle sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a global chip shortage, Americans still bought plenty of trucks last year.
In fact, 48 out of the 50 states had a truck or SUV as the top selling vehicle in 2020—and most states actually had trucks taking all of the top three spots. The only two with a car topping the leaderboard were California and Florida.
|Top Selling Vehicle By State (2020)||#1||#2||#3|
|Alabama||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado||Toyota Camry|
|Alaska||Ram 1500-3500||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado|
|Arizona||Ram 1500-3500||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado|
|Arkansas||Ram 1500-3500||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado|
|California||Honda Civic||Toyota RAV4||Toyota Camry|
|Colorado||Ford F-Series||Ram 1500-3500||Toyota RAV4|
|Connecticut||Honda CR-V||Toyota RAV4||Subaru Forester|
|D.C.||Toyota RAV4||Honda CR-V||Subaru Forester|
|Delaware||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado||RAM 1500-3500|
|Florida||Toyota Corolla||Ford F-Series||Toyota RAV4|
|Georgia||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado||RAM 1500-3500|
|Hawaii||Toyota Tacoma||Toyota 4Runner||Toyota RAV4|
|Idaho||Ford F-Series||RAM 1500-3500||Chevrolet Silverado|
|Illinois||Ford F-Series||Honda CR-V||Chevrolet Silverado|
|Indiana||Chevrolet Silverado||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Equinox|
|Iowa||Chevrolet Silverado||Ford F-Series||RAM 1500-3500|
|Kansas||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado||RAM 1500-3500|
|Kentucky||Chevrolet Silverado||Ford F-Series||RAM 1500-3500|
|Louisiana||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado||RAM 1500-3500|
|Maine||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado||RAM 1500-3500|
|Maryland||Toyota RAV4||Ford F-Series||Honda CR-V|
|Massachusetts||Toyota RAV4||Honda CR-V||Ford F-Series|
|Michigan||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Equinox||RAM 1500-3500|
|Minnesota||Chevrolet Silverado||Ford F-Series||RAM 1500-3500|
|Mississippi||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado||RAM 1500-3500|
|Missouri||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado||RAM 1500-3500|
|Montana||Ford F-Series||RAM 1500-3500||Chevrolet Silverado|
|Nebraska||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado||RAM 1500-3500|
|Nevada||Ram 1500-3500||Ford F-Series||Toyota RAV4|
|New Hampshire||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado||Toyota RAV4|
|New Jersey||Honda CR-V||Honda Civic||Toyota RAV4|
|New Mexico||Ford F-Series||RAM 1500-3500||Chevrolet Silverado|
|New York||Honda CR-V||Toyota RAV4||Jeep Cherokee|
|North Carolina||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado||RAM 1500-3500|
|North Dakota||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado||RAM 1500-3500|
|Ohio||Ford F-Series||RAM 1500-3500||Chevrolet Silverado|
|Oklahoma||Ford F-Series||RAM 1500-3500||Chevrolet Silverado|
|Oregon||Toyota RAV4||Ford F-Series||RAM 1500-3500|
|Pennsylvania||Ford F-Series||RAM 1500-3500||Honda CR-V|
|Puerto Rico||Toyota RAV4||Toyota Yaris||Toyota Corolla|
|Rhode Island||Toyota RAV4||Honda CR-V||Ford F-Series|
|South Carolina||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado||RAM 1500-3500|
|South Dakota||Ford F-Series||RAM 1500-3500||Chevrolet Silverado|
|Tennessee||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado||RAM 1500-3500|
|Texas||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado||RAM 1500-3500|
|Utah||Ford F-Series||RAM 1500-3500||Chevrolet Silverado|
|Vermont||Ford F-Series||Toyota RAV4||RAM 1500-3500|
|Virginia||Ford F-Series||Toyota RAV4||Honda CR-V|
|Washington||Toyota RAV4||Ford F-Series||Ram 1500-3500|
|West Virginia||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado||Ram 1500-3500|
|Wisconsin||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado||Ram 1500-3500|
|Wyoming||Ram 1500-3500||Ford F-Series||Chevrolet Silverado|
The Ford F-Series was the clear leader in sales, primarily in the Midwest. With a top-selling spot in 60% of U.S. states, the F-Series was the best selling vehicle in America.
Combined with the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500-3500 series, the big three American truck brands accounted for 73% of the top three selling vehicles across all American states and territories.
Japanese Automakers in the Mix
Though American manufacturers had the best selling cars in most states, they had some overseas competition.
Japanese manufacturers Toyota and Honda had the top-selling vehicle in 11 states (and D.C.). They primarily captured car sales along the coastlines, including in California, Florida, New York and Washington, some of the most populated states in the country.
|America's Best Selling Vehicles (2020)||Type||# Times in Top 3|
Despite many cars being available for sale in the U.S., only seven manufacturers made the top-selling vehicles list in 2020.
With the full effects of the COVID-19 pandemic yet to be reflected in the sales, and electric vehicle manufacturers like Tesla on the rise, how will the best selling vehicles in America evolve?
Ranked: Big Tech CEO Insider Trading During the First Half of 2021
Big Tech is worth trillions, but what are insiders doing with their stock? We breakdown Big Tech CEO insider trading during the first half of 2021.
Big Tech CEO Insider Trading During The First Half of 2021
When CEOs of major companies are selling their shares, investors can’t help but notice.
After all, these decisions have a direct effect on the personal wealth of these insiders, which can say plenty about their convictions with respect to the future direction of the companies they run.
Considering that Big Tech stocks are some of the most popular holdings in today’s portfolios, and are backed by a collective $5.3 trillion in institutional investment, how do the CEOs of these organizations rank by their insider selling?
|CEO||Stock||Shares Sold H1 2021||Value of Shares ($M)|
|Jeff Bezos||Amazon (AMZN)||2.0 million||$6,600|
|Mark Zuckerberg||Facebook (FB)||7.1 million||$2,200
|Satya Nadella||Microsoft (MSFT)||278,694||$65|
|Sundar Pichai||Google (GOOGL)||27,000||$62|
|Tim Cook||Apple (AAPL)||0||$0|
Breaking Down Insider Trading, by CEO
Let’s dive into the insider trading activity of each Big Tech CEO:
During the first half of 2021, Jeff Bezos sold 2 million shares of Amazon worth $6.6 billion.
This activity was spread across 15 different transactions, representing an average of $440 million per transaction. Altogether, this ranks him first by CEO insider selling, by total dollar proceeds. Bezos’s time as CEO of Amazon came to an end shortly after the half way mark for the year.
In second place is Mark Zuckerberg, who has been significantly busier selling than the rest.
In the first half of 2021, he unloaded 7.1 million shares of Facebook onto the open market, worth $2.2 billion. What makes these transactions interesting is the sheer quantity of them, as he sold on 136 out of 180 days. On average, that’s $12 million worth of stock sold every day.
Zuckerberg’s record year of selling in 2018 resulted in over $5 billion worth of stock sold, but over 90% of his net worth still remains in the company.
Next is Satya Nadella, who sold 278,694 shares of Microsoft, worth $234 million. Despite this, the Microsoft CEO still holds an estimated 1.6 million shares, which is the largest of any insider.
Microsoft’s stock has been on a tear for a number of years now, and belongs to an elite trillion dollar club, which consists of only six public companies.
Fourth on the list is Sundar Pichai who has been at the helm at Google for six years now. Since the start of 2021, he’s sold 27,000 shares through nine separate transactions, worth $62.5 million. However, Pichai still has an estimated 6,407 Class A and 114,861 Class C shares.
Google is closing in on a $2 trillion valuation and is the best performing Big Tech stock, with shares rising 60% year-to-date. Their market share growth from U.S. ad revenues is a large contributing factor.
Last, is Tim Cook, who just surpassed a decade as Apple CEO.
During this time, shares have rallied over 1,000% and annual sales have gone from $100 billion to $347 billion. That said, Cook has sold 0 shares of Apple during the first half of 2021. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t sold shares elsewhere, though. Cook also sits on the board of directors for Nike, and has sold $6.9 million worth of shares this year.
Measuring Insider Selling
All things equal, it’s desirable for management to have skin in the game, and be invested alongside shareholders. It can also be seen as aligning long-term interests.
A good measure of insider selling activity is in relation to the existing stake in the company. For example, selling $6.6 billion worth of shares may sound like a lot, but when there are 51.7 million Amazon shares remaining for Jeff Bezos, it actually represents a small portion and is probably not cause for panic.
If, however, executives are disclosing large transactions relative to their total stakes, it might be worth digging deeper.
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