The Most Important Investors Of All Time

I analyzed the birth dates of the most important investors of all time. Ten observations were made.

This is an incomplete list. It does not include any early financiers like J.P. Morgan, no chief strategists like Abby Joseph Cohen, and no Fed Chairman like Alan Greenspan. What it does include is traders, investors, hedge fund managers, Nobel laureates, economists, and early pioneers of portfolio management. Some of these people never managed money, but had a huge influence on how we think about investing, like Daniel Kahneman or Robert Shiller for example.

The chart below plots the faces not by when they were born, but rather by when these people started their career. This is not exact, I took the year they were born and added 22. Without further ado, the most important investors of all time.

best investors

A few things stand out:

  1. There is not much diversity in this group. That’s a lot of white men.

  2. There is a football field of white space after Einhorn and Griffin. The reason the last star manager was born in 1968 could probably be its own post.

  3. Every single person on this list is incredibly smart. But they were also fortunate to be born when they were. I added 25 years to their hypothetical starting date to show the meat of their careers. The average 25-year total return on the S&P 500 was 1463%! I’m not suggesting these people had it easy or that they were merely lucky, but they did have the wind at their back.

  4. Philip Fisher started at the market top in 1929, and he still managed to have a successful investing career. This might explain why he was so careful in his security analysis. In fact, the 25-year total return on the S&P 500 from his start date was 319%, by far the lowest of anybody on this list.

  5. The total return of the S&P 500 since short seller Jim Chanos began his career is 2451%. The fact that he is still running money with the cards so stacked against short sellers is incredible.

  6. The best 25-year period for anybody on this list was Stanley Druckenmiller, by a mile, at 5242%. Tied for second is Paul Tudor Jones, David Swensen and Rob Arnott, at 3438%.

  7. No money manager went to work on Wall Street during the Great Depression. The only ones that began their career between 1929 and 1940 were Philip Fisher and John Templeton.

  8. This is just a random observation. Granted a 25-year start/end date only exists in a spreadsheet but what a difference a year makes. The 25 years from 1966-1990 had a total return of 878%. If you start one year later, the 25-year total return jumps to 1318%.

  9. The only decade to start at the lows and finish at the highs was the 1950s. Some of the investors that fortuitously began their career then were Jack Bogle, Warren Buffett, George Soros, Julian Robertson, Ed Thorp, William O’Neil, and Carl Icahn.

  10. Baby boomers dominate this list; 33% of them was born between 1946 and 1960. The list includes Howard Marks, David Booth, Ed Seykota, Robert Shiller, William Bernstein, Ray Dalio, Bill Miller, David Shaw, Stanley Druckenmiller, David Swensen, Paul Tudor Jones, Rob Arnott, John Paulson, Louis Bacon Moore, Steven Cohen, Michael Marcus, David Tepper, Jim Chanos, Seth Klarman, Joel Greenblatt, Jeff Gundlach, and Dan Loeb.

Any list like this is incomplete, but this is a pretty good starting point. Below are the 67 people I’ve chosen with the year they were born.

1870- Bernard Baruch

1877- Jesse Livermore

1883- John Maynard Keynes

1894- Benjamin Graham

1900- Alfred Winslow Jones, John Burr Williams

1907- Philip Fisher

1908- John Kenneth Galbraith

1912- John Templeton, Milton Friedman

1915- Paul Samuelson

1919- Peter Bernstein

1923- Merton Miller

1924- Charlie Munger

1927- Harry Markowitz

1929- Jack Bogle

1930- Warren Buffett, George Soros, Jack Treynor

1932- Burton Malkiel, Julian Robertson, Ed Thorp

1933- William O’Neil

1934- William Sharpe, Daniel Kahneman

1936- Carl Icahn, Martin Leibowitz

1937- Charlie Ellis

1938- Jim Simons, Fischer Black

1939- Gene Fama

1940- Michael Steinhardt

1941- Myron Scholes

1942- Mario Gabelli, Martin Zweig

1943- Leon Cooperman, Ronald Perelman

1944- Robert Merton, Peter Lynch, Bill Gross

1945- Richard Thaler, Bruce Kovner

1946- Howard Marks, David Booth, Ed Seykota

1948- William Bernstein

1949- Ray Dalio

1950- Bill Miller

1951- David Shaw

1953- Stanley Druckenmiller

1954- David Swensen, Paul Tudor Jones, Rob Arnott

1956- Louis Bacon Moore, Steven Cohen, Michael Marcus

1957- David Tepper, Jim Chanos, Seth Klarman, Joel Greenblatt

1959- Jeff Gundlach

1961- Dan Loeb

1966- Cliff Asness, Bill Ackman

1968- David Einhorn, Ken Griffin