Last year, the Fairholme Fund’s Bruce Berkowitz won the title with 46.7% of the votes, followed by David Tepper and Prem Watsa. Berkowitz garnered much notice last year as his fund returned from a 32.43% decline in 2011 to a 36.8% gain in 2012, when the troubled banks he bet too early on began to turn around.
This year, investors in the spotlight included Bill Ackman, who made a public take down of Herbalife (NYSE:HLF), and cut two major positions in J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG). David Herro, international fund manager at Oakmark, produced a noteworthy 41% return through the first three quarters in his Oakmark International Fund. John Paulson also returned from a dismal slump to a reported 30% this year, with his Recovery Fund gaining the most.
GuruFocus staff agree that Carl Icahn had an eventful and largely successful year. He made money taking the opposite bet on Bill Ackman’s Herbalife, attempted to swipe Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) from a leveraged buyout with a counter offer and is pushing for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to return even more money to shareholders. Of the 20 public companies Icahn has joined in the past five years, the average annualized return during his presence was 28%.
Icahn believes that the present day is a propitious time for his brand of activist investing.
“Most importantly to current IEP unit holders is that in my opinion there has never been a better time than today for activist investing, if practiced properly,” he said in Icahn Enterprises LP’s third quarter financial results. “Several factors are responsible for this: 1) extremely low interest rates, which make acquisitions much less costly and therefore much more attractive, and 2) the current awareness by many institutional investors that the prevalence of mediocre top management and non-caring boards at many of America's companies must be dealt with if we are ever going to end high unemployment and be able to compete in world markets.”
Still other long-term financiers employed caution in the rising price environment, engaged in limited buying and conserved investor capital. Donald Yacktman bought no new stocks in the third quarter, and Bill Nygren bought only two while his portfolio geared toward economically sensitive sectors gained 28%.
These are only a few year's highlights. Who do you think should be named Guru of the Year 2013? Nominate your favorite of all the investors GuruFocus tracks in the comments section below. We will use the nominees to create a poll where readers can vote the winner.