Louis Simpson, whose career in finance spanned more than half a century and who helped pick stocks for Warren Buffett among other illustrious roles, died January 8th at the age of 85, reports Bloomberg.
Simpson was president and CEO of auto insurer Geico’s capital operations from 1993 to 2010. He managed its stock portfolio for more than 30 years, staying on at Warren Buffett’s request after Berkshire Hathaway acquired full ownership of the company in 1996. Buffett called Simpson a “Hall of Famer” and “the best investment manager in the property-casualty business” in his 2004 annual letter. One example of Simpson’s investing skill came when he invested 40% of Geico’s capital in three regional “Baby Bell” operating companies that formed in the wake of the Ma Bell breakup in the 1980s. The investment doubled over two years, producing gains of $400 million on top of Geico’s $1 billion net worth.
After retiring from Geico in 2010, Simpson founded Naples, Florida-based SQ Advisors with his wife, Kimberly Querrey, the article details. The firm held a stock portfolio worth about $2.67 billion as of a 2016 filing, which included a stake in Berkshire Hathaway of more than $380 million. In 2019, SQ Advisors stopped managing outside money and became a family office instead. He and his wife donated $20 million to Princeton in June 2016 and more than $100 million to Northwestern University to fund biomedical research.
Before joining Geico, Simpson was CEO of Western Asset Management in California. In a 2010 Chicago Tribune article, he said that he had an “eclectic” approach to investing and did his own research by reading all company documents carefully, talking to competitors, and meeting with top management. Those well-researched, deft investment decisions earned high praise from Buffett. “Sometimes…I silently disagree with his decisions,” Warren wrote to his shareholders in 2005. “But he’s usually right.”