Stewart Horejsi’s business was in a funk. It was 1980, and Brown Welding Supply LLC, his family’s third-generation distributor of hydrogen and oxygen tanks, was battling competitors that were intent on expanding into the corner of Kansas he controlled.
“It was a profitable business, but companies took their money and bought more trucks,” Horejsi, 75, said in a telephone interview from his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona. “The competition just grew.”
Frustrated, Horejsi bought 40 shares of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A) for $265 each with the company’s cash after friends told him about Warren Buffett, the company’s then-little known chairman. He bought another 60 shares two weeks later at $295 and 200 more at $330 a month after that.
Today, he’s a billionaire. The 4,300 Class A shares of the Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate Horejsi says he holds is bigger than the stake controlled by Bill Gates, 57, the world’s richest person and Buffett’s bridge partner. He has a net worth of at least $1.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, and has never appeared on an international wealth ranking.
Horejsi joins a squad of billionaires minted by Berkshire. In addition to Buffett, the world’s fourth-richest person, at least six current or former billionaires derive their fortunes from Berkshire. They include Charles Munger, 89, the company’s vice chairman and David Gottesman, 86, a Berkshire board member and founder of asset management firm First Manhattan Co.
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