Prem Watsa is the CEO and Founder of Fairfax Financial Holdings headquartered in Canada. His name rose to limelight after his company announced complete acquisition of the Veteran Mobile Handset maker BlackBerry Ltd.
Prem Watsa was born in Hyderabad in 1950. His family hails from Mangalore Mangalore in Karnataka while his Father was the Principal of famous Hyderabad Public School.
Prem holds a B.Tech degree in Chemical Engineering in IIT Madras (1972 batch). He Wife Nalini was a classmate to Watsa at IIT Madras. They have three children.
Reluctant to pursue career as a Chemical Engineer, Watsa left to Canada in 1972 to join his elder brother. He enrolled in MBA Programme at Richard Ivey School of Business of the University of Western Ontario, Canada. He sold air conditioners and furnaces to finance his study. His got his first job in 1974 as a Research Analyst in an Insurance Firm . By 1983 he rose to the post of Vice President in that firm.
In 1984, Watsa started his own asset management firm, Hamblin Watsa Investment Counsel Ltd. In 1985, Prem Watsa took control of an almost bankrupt Canadian Insurance Firm Markel Financial and infused fresh round of capital which proved to be the rebirth of the company. In 1987, he renamed it to FairFax Financial Holdings. FairFax is the acronym for fair, friendly acquisitions. Today the Stock price of Fairfax is about $420 making it comparable to companies like Apple and Google. He currently holds more the 50% stake in Fairfax despite holding only 10% shares.
In April 2007, he delivered his historic speech at Ivey School of Business, where he issued a dire warning.”There’s a possibility of a one-in-50 or a one-in-100-year storm coming”. When Global economy went into recession, Watsa was one of the few who made windfall gains.
Watsa is often equated to the veteran Investor Warren Buffett. Some call him Buffet of Canada. Like Buffett, Watsa draws a salary that is modest for the field ($600,000) but owns a controlling stake in the companies he’s building. (Watsa’s net worth is difficult to establish, but estimates run as high as $4.16 billion.)
The most significant difference between the two men is that Buffett is a garrulous cable news commentator, conference keynote and commencement speaker. But Prem Watsa is modest and media shy. He rarely speaks up in conferences or functions and hardly does any interview.
He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Hospital for Children, a member of the Advisory Board for the Richard Ivey School of Business, a member of the Board of Directors of the Royal Ontario Museum Foundation and as well as Chairman of the Investment Committee of St. Paul’s Anglican Church.
Prem Watsa was also the Director and member of Risk Committee of India-based ICICI Bank Ltd.until he retired from board on June 27, 2011.