Prince al-Waleed bin Talal
Former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani may have returned Prince al-Waleed's $10 million contribution to a World Trade Center relief fund last October, but that hasn't stopped the 46-year-old Saudi royal from injecting $1 billion into the U.S. stock markets since then. In recent months, he has upped his investments in major American corporations like AOL-Time Warner, and Citigroup, in which he is the largest individual shareholder.
The world's 11th-richest person found plenty of other places to put his money and influence, though. He is now forming a $1 billion Kingdom Hotel Investment Group to invest in hotels in the Middle East. And during the KirchMedia crisis, he offered to mediate between Rupert Murdoch and fellow stakeholders. Paparazzi may trail some princes, but money managers follow this one.
France's foremost corporate raider. France's most feared corporate raider. France's most successful corporate raider. Those are the tag lines that follow Vincent Bolloré's name. Considering how he has shaken up such companies as Lazard Freres, Peugeot, and Milan investment bank Mediobanca by taking major stakes and making management more accountable, the labels are well earned.
Even when Bolloré, 50, makes an investment purely on upside potential — such as his recent near-2 percent stake in troubled Vivendi Universal, which he quickly sold — the rumor mill had him staging a hostile takeover. Pressure from the World Bank and environmentalists recently led him to withdraw from his African wood business. But with a war chest of some 1 billion euros ($906 million) at his disposal, those investments won't take long to redistribute.
CEO, Berkshire Hathaway
Who doesn't want to know what the Oracle of Omaha has to say? Thanks to his wealth (he's the world's second-richest person) and investing acumen (he's the ultimate buy-and-hold investor), Buffett, 71, has investment fans worldwide. Berkshire Hathaway, his motley conglomerate of insurance and other businesses, has outperformed the Standard & Poor's 500 index for 33 of its 37 years. No wonder investors follow his every pronouncement.
Last year was tough, though, for Berkshire's reinsurance business, which suffered losses of $2.4 billion. Buffett's explanation in his annual shareholder letter was characteristically plainspoken: "I violated the Noah rule: Predicting rain doesn't count; building arks does. I consequently let Berkshire operate with a dangerous level of risk."
Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
The money behind some of Silicon Valley's most famous start-ups, the 50-year-old Doerr has backed such legendary high-tech firms as Compaq, Sun, and Amazon.com. In 2001, Doerr did offer an apology for calling the Web "the largest legal creation of wealth in the history of the planet," but he remains a strong voice for entrepreneurial values nonetheless.
Lately he's been trying to thwart renewed efforts by U.S. and European accounting authorities to make stock options an expense. Doing so, he argues, would discourage innovation and stall economic growth. What's Doerr's new thing? It's the next evolutionary stage of the Internet, which he calls the "Evernet": "always on, high-speed, ubiquitous, and available in multiple formats."
Chairman, BZ Group Holding
Swiss financier Ebner is far from neutral on any matters pertaining to his massive holdings. Through his BZ Group Holding, he's made a name for himself by taking large positions in complacent companies and shaking them up. He recently took a 10 percent stake in Swiss engineering firm ABB, and forced out chairman Percy Barnevik when things didn't go well. Ebner then caused a boardroom tussle when he made public ABB's massive pension payouts to Barnevik.
Last year he went after Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG when he was blocked from obtaining a seat on the board. He ended up selling his 20 percent stake to rival Novartis AG. Critics say his tough tactics sometimes amount to greenmail. One thing is certain: executives fear him.
There are two major U.S. pension funds that are guaranteed to (a) take stands and (b) make companies squirm, which is why we've grouped them together.
America's largest public pension system (assets under management: $148 billion), the California Public Employees' Retirement System (Calpers) has long campaigned for shareholder rights in the United States, often leading other pension funds to follow suit. Its recent vote against Hewlett-Packard's merger with Compaq Computer almost squelched the deal.
Now the fund is extending its shareholder advocacy to emerging markets. Last February, Calpers announced it was withdrawing from equities markets in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand because those countries did not meet its new emerging-market standards for market transparency, liquidity, and political stability. The high-profile retreat spooked other foreign investors, causing markets in the three countries to dip, and jeopardizing the region's slow recovery from the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
Like Calpers, the $270 billion Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF), one of the largest private pension systems in the world, is not shy about throwing its weight around in the name of shareholder rights, corporate governance, and socially responsible investing. This year, CREF, the system's public equity investment arm, has submitted a raft of shareholder resolutions to U.S. companies on such issues as auditor independence and shareholder approval of stock-option plans. Not surprisingly, in the latter debate, TIAA-CREF and its leader, John Biggs, have come down squarely on the side of treating options as an expense.
Edward Johnson III
CEO, Fidelity Investments
The world's biggest fund company, which Johnson has guided since 1977, is a global influencer by sheer size. With almost $900 billion in assets under management and a portfolio of more than 300 mutual funds, Boston-based Fidelity routinely moves Wall Street and commands the attention of finance executives.
In its quest to become a full-service financial empire, Fidelity has expanded beyond pure money management to include such businesses as 401(k) outsourcing, which accounted for more than half its revenue in 2001. Notoriously secretive, Fidelity doesn't often throw its muscle around in public. But Johnson, 72, will most likely remain a heavyweight until he turns the reins over to daughter Abigail, the current president of Fidelity Management and Research.
Robert K. Massie
Executive Director, CERES
A major advocate for socially responsible investment, the Boston-based Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies is headed by Massie. CERES's investor-members, representing more than $300 billion in assets, have established a 10-point code of environmental conduct that's been embraced by 50 companies, including General Motors and American Airlines.
In April, the United Nations formally inaugurated the Global Reporting Initiative. Developed by CERES, the initiative will establish a set of international corporate-reporting guidelines on environmental, economic, and social performance.
Founder, Soros Fund Management
One of the 20th century's greatest investors, Soros, founder of Quantum Fund, wants to change the system that made him rich. Soros, 71, who "broke" the Bank of England in 1992 when he made $1 billion overnight by betting $10 billion on the devaluation of the pound — and consequently gained superguru status — now speaks about reforming global capitalism.
In addition, through his foundation network, Soros primarily supports liberal democratic causes worldwide. In his latest book, On Globalization, the Hungarian émigré advocates a "visible hand to guide financial markets," suggests reforms for the IMF, pleads the case for morality in public affairs, and calls the United States "the major obstacle to international cooperation today."