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Buffett CEO of the Year, says Morningstar

Monday, 26 Jan 2009 10:30 AM

By Marc Davis

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The choice may be a "tad controversial," says Morningstar StockInvestor Editor Paul Larson, but Warren Buffett has been named CEO of the year for 2008 by the investment research firm.

Despite what may be perceived as Buffett's mistakes of the last few months of the previous year — his put option buys on equities, his investments in General Electric and Goldman Sachs, and his call option buys on certain U.S. stocks as the market went south, overall, the Sage of Omaha didn't do badly in a calamitous year in which so many lost so much.

Clearly, Buffett's timing was amiss on his bullish moves, Larson believes.

But, continues Larson, "We do not view these as any reason to lose confidence in Buffett's abilities either as an investor or corporate manager."

Larson commends Buffett for not buying risky derivatives and avoiding excessive leverage over the past decade.

"By practicing prudence and patience earlier in the decade, Berkshire was in a position to put large amounts of capital to work in 2008," says Larson.

"In other words, rather than blowing its ammunition hunting squirrels a few years ago, Berkshire has been able to shoot the proverbial elephants now walking by."

If there's any doubt that Buffett is one of the smartest investors of modern times, Larson cites his unparalleled record.

"Since taking the helm of the sleepy textile business 44 years ago and turning it into arguably the strongest conglomerate on the planet, Buffet and his managers have grown the book value per A share from $19 to just over $77,500 as of Sept. 30. "

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