MiB: Thomas S. Gayner, Markel Corp



This week, we speak with Thomas S. Gayner, the Chief Investment Officer and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Markel Corp. Gayner oversees public investing activities for the company — which boasts a capital portfolio of $27 billion — as well as the Markel Ventures companies, which invests in private companies. Over the course of 15 years, from 2000 to 2015, Gayner’s portfolio returned 11.3% annually, versus the S&P 500 index’s 4.2%.

He explains why the best way to think of Markel Corp is as a publicly-traded family office.

The parallels to Berkshire Hathaway, which Gayner has owned for decades, are many: Gayner gets to use the free cash flow from the insurance company, which allows him a very inexpensive source of long-term capital. The regular inflows allow him to dollar cost average into many of his favorite value positions. He runs a concentrated portfolio, with the firm’s 10 largest holdings totaling about 45% of the portfolio; in the average U.S. stock fund, the top 10 averages less than 30%.

Gayner also runs Markel Ventures, which allows him to purchase private (nonpublic) midsize businesses. His preference is for companies that throw off lots of free cash flow and have a substantial moat around their businesses

A list of his favorite books is here; A transcript of our conversation is available here.

You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.

Be sure to check out our Masters in Business next week with Robin Wigglesworth, the FT’s global finance correspondent based in Oslo, Norway. He focuses on the trends reshaping markets and investing, from technological disruption to quantitative investing. His new book is Trillions: How a Band of Wall Street Renegades Invented the Index Fund and Changed Finance Forever.



Tom Gayner’s Fave Books


The Long Gray Line: The American Journey of West Point’s Class of 1966 by Rick Atkinson

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles


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