What Do ‘Canada’s Warren Buffett’ and Former President Barack Obama Have in Common?

Prem Watsa likes to keep a low profile.

As the Toronto Star put it: “Watsa is the richest, savviest guy you never heard of.”

Nicknamed the “Warren Buffett of Canada,” Watsa is the founder, chairman and chief executive of a diversified insurance company, Fairfax Financial Holdings (FFH.TO/FFH-U.TO), based in Toronto.

Inspired by reading Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich,” Watsa arrived in London, Ontario, Canada in the winter of 1972 with just $8 in his pocket.

Watsa had come from India to earn an MBA at the University of Western Ontario.

As a student, he survived by selling stationery and small gifts door to door.

In 1974, with his MBA in hand, Watsa interviewed at Canadian insurance giant Confederation Life.

There, Watsa’s boss gave him a copy of “Securities Analysis” by Benjamin Graham and David Dodd. That book is widely considered to be the “Bible of Value Investing.”

That experience left a lasting impact on Watsa. He even named one of his children after Benjamin Graham.

A decade later, Watsa left to launch his own company. Today, his Fairfax Financial Holdings operates in Canada, the United States and a dozen other countries worldwide.

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