These days, the thing to say if you want to sound smart about Warren Buffett is that the Oracle of Omaha’s crystal ball has cracked. In mid-October, headlines blared that Buffett had lost $2 billion in just two days on Coke and IBM
. Nevermind that Buffett has said those investements are long-term holdings, that he hasn’t sold a share of either company’s stock, and that he would prefer it if IBM’s shares stayed cheap, for now. It seemed to reinforce the notion that the world’s great stock picker had lost it.
Last year, the book value of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway badly trailed the S&P 500, increasing less than the broad market index over the past five years for the first time in history. Buffett has acknowledged that his hand picked successors Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, have done better in recent years than he has. (Combs’ and Weschler’s market beating performance was the subject of a recent Fortune story.) Earlier this year, The New York Times highlighted a recent study that found Buffett’s ability to do better than the market has mostly disappeared.
And yet, some of Buffett’s best investments of his entire career have been ones he has made in the past few years. What’s more, if Buffett has lost it, someone forgot to tell the market. Share of Berkshire
are way up, have more than doubled in the past five years. That’s generally a reflection of how well investors think Berkshire’s stock market portfolio, still over 85% managed by Buffett and his long-time partner Charlie Munger, as well as the businesses they have bought over the years—including railroad company Burlington Northern, See’s Candies, and dozens of others—are doing. If Buffett has hit a lull, that’s only because the comparison he has built up for himself over the years is tough to top.
Here are Buffett’s greatest investments of all time, ranked by annual average rate of return. It’s a testament to how successful Buffett has been. Even some of Buffett’s best-known investment successes, like Coke
, Capital Cities/ABC, Gillette, and auto insurance company Geico, were not good enough to make the list. Here are the ones that did: