He may be the most driven investor on earth. And now the founder of the $17 billion Fairholme Fund is making the boldest bet of his career.
Bruce Berkowitz is starting to sweat. It's just after 5 a.m. on a Thursday, and the man who is arguably the top mutual fund manager on the planet is briskly walking his usual morning route on the mansion-lined streets of his gated neighborhood in Coral Gables, Fla., just outside Miami. Alongside him is his investing partner, right-hand man, and next-door neighbor, Charlie Fernandez, who is furiously scrolling through e-mails on his BlackBerry as the two bat around ideas for the portfolio of Fairholme, (FAIRX) the $17 billion fund Berkowitz started 11 years ago. "Out here you can actually think," says Berkowitz, explaining the appeal of an hour of daily pre-dawn speed-walking to a visitor hustling to keep pace.
As he charges through the darkness in shorts, running shoes, and a black University of Miami zip-up hoodie, Berkowitz bounces from topic to topic in his typical scattershot way. He and Fernandez have just returned from an eight-day fact-finding trip to China -- he's bullish but wishes he'd gotten in 10 years ago -- packed so full of meetings that, Berkowitz says, they slept a mere 24 hours total. Next he jumps to the bold investments that he and Fernandez have made -- hedge-fund-like maneuvers involving both equity and debt -- in subprime lender AmeriCredit and then-bankrupt mall owner General Growth Properties (GGP), moves that have netted his fund a profit of $2 billion.
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