The news Monday that Fairfax Financial Holdings has put a $4.7-billion U.S. bid for BlackBerry has cast an unprecedented spotlight on the Canadian firm's CEO, Prem Watsa. The man who was at least once referred to as "the richest, savviest guy you’ve never heard of" has developed a reputation as one of the world's sharpest investors.
Here's a brief rundown on who he is, and where he came from.
'Canada's Warren Buffett'
Watsa, referred to as the “Canadian Warren Buffett,” has modelled his investment approach after the American billionaire who founded Berkshire Hathaway Inc. by investing the assets of insurance subsidiaries to create wealth. He pursues Buffett’s strategy of investing in the assets of down-and-out stocks.
Watsa has been a vocal advocate of the notion that BlackBerry can turn around its fortunes. He was named as a director of the Waterloo, Ont. company as part of a management shakeup that saw former co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis ousted. His company, Fairfax Financial Holdings, was the BlackBerry’s third-largest investor before bidding for the entire company.
From India To Canada
The 63-year-old was born in India and earned a degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology. He also has an MBA from Western University’s Richard Ivey School of Business.
A 'Modest' Income
Compared to other billionaires, Watsa earns a relatively modest salary from his company. He was number 102 on the Globe and Mail’s list of top Canadian earners, earning $622,000 in total compensation in 2012.
Prophet Of Bad News
Watsa is credited with predicting the downfall of the U.S banks tied to the mortgage market south of the border. He has also warned that Canada’s housing markets are overvalued and some are suffering from overbuilding.