Billionaire investor Fayez Sarofim, who founded Fayez Sarofim & Co. in Houston in 1958, has died at the age of 93, reports an obituary in Barron’s. Sarofim immigrated from Egypt, attended Harvard Business School, and took a risk opening his own firm in Houston in the late 1950s, at a time when the investment business was dominated by East Coast firms.
Sarofim had a Buffett-style approach to investing and leaned toward blue-chip businesses in his holdings, such as Coca-Cola, Philip Morris, Procter & Gamble, and Exxon Mobil, adding tech giants such as Microsoft, Apple and Amazon in the last decade. One of Sarofim’s earliest roles was handling money for the Rice University endowment, which still remains a client of the firm. He made the same investments as his clients, which accounted for much of his wealth. The firm currently manages $32.9 billion, mainly for institutional investors and clients with a high net worth, including $2.2 billion in its flagship BNY Mellon Appreciation fund. In a reflection of Sarofim’s “buy-and-hold strategy,” the fund has an annual turnover ratio of 4%—one of the lowest in the industry.
Sarofim was also renowned for his art collection, which he amassed over 60 years and kept private until an exhibition at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts last year. The collection was lauded by the museum as a “rarity” among private collections for its “scope, scale, and quality,” and included works by John Singer Sargent, Edward Hopper, Willem de Kooning and El Greco. In 2002, he added pro football team the Houston Texans to his holdings as part of a group that bought the team for $500 million and is now worth $3.7 billion.
Sarofim rarely granted interviews, but in a 2013 profile in Barron’s, he said, “Retirement is not in my vocabulary.” And indeed, he was still chairman and co-chief investment officer of his firm at the time of his death. The firm intends to stay privately held by Sarofim’s family—his son, Christopher Sarofim is vice chairman—and long-time employees.
In the 2013 Barron’s profile, Byron Wien, vice chairman of Blackstone Advisory Partners, said this of Sarofim: “Here’s an Egyptian who came here with nothing…and made a fortune in Houston. He’s a warm and wonderful person. He has a quality that is so critical in business, which is to make you feel important.”