Prem Watsa is an Indian-Canadian billionaire businessman. He is the Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of FairFax Financial Holdings, which engages in property, casualty, insurance and reinsurance, investment management and insurance claims management. Watsa has been referred to as the “Canadian Warren Buffett.”
Watsa was born in Hyderabad, India on August 5, 1950. His family was of Roman Catholic Brahmin heritage. He attended Hyderabad Public School as a child and left India with $8, selling furnaces and air conditioners to support his education.
Watsa graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras with a degree in Chemical Engineering. In addition, he earned a Master’s of Business Administration from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario.
After graduating from university, Watsa worked for the Confederation Life insurance company. In 1984, he began an investment firm named Hamblin Watsa Investment Counsel, with his former boss Tony Hamblin. In 1985, Watsa took over Markel Financial, a small Canadian trucking insurance company that was on the verge of bankruptcy and renamed it Fairfax Financial Holdings. In September 2013, BlackBerry announced it had signed a letter of intent to acquire Fairfax in a $4.7 billion deal.
In 2019, Forbes estimated Prem Watsa’s net worth as $1 billion.
Watsa grew Fairfax to where it reached annual revenues of $8 billion a year in 2012. That same year, he was appointed to the Board of Directors of Research in Motion however resigned in August 2013. Watsa is a member of the Board of Trustees of The Hospital for Sick 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 Chairman of the Investment Committee of St. Paul’s Anglican Church. In 2015, Watsa was named a member of the Order of Canada and in 2017, he was elected the first chancellor of Huron University College, which is affiliated with the University of Western Ontario.