Prem Watsa
9th Chancellor of the University of Waterloo
In office
Preceded byMike Lazaridis
Succeeded byTom Jenkins
President/Vice ChancellorDavid Johnston
Chairman of Fairfax Financial Holdings
Personal details
Born (1950-08-05) 5 August 1950 (age 73)
Hyderabad, Hyderabad State (present-day Telangana), India
Alma mater

Prem Watsa CM (born 5 August 1950) is an Indian-Canadian billionaire businessman who is the founder, chairman, and chief executive of Fairfax Financial Holdings, based in Toronto.[2][3][4][5] He has been called the "Canadian Warren Buffett."[6][7] He was awarded the fourth highest civilian award of India, Padma Shri, in January 2020.[8][9][10]

Early life and education

Watsa was born in Hyderabad, India. He attended Hyderabad Public School and the Indian Institute of Technology Madras[11][12] where he graduated with a degree in chemical engineering. He later moved to London, Ontario, and went to the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, where he earned an MBA. Watsa left India with US$8, sold furnaces and air conditioners to financially support his university education.[13] He is a distinguished alumnus of IIT Madras.[12] The Watsa family are Christians.[14]


After graduating, Watsa worked for the insurance company Confederation Life. In 1984, he started an investment firm with his former boss Tony Hamblin, called Hamblin Watsa Investment Counsel.[12] In 1985, Watsa took over Markel Financial, a small Canadian trucking insurance company that was verging on bankruptcy,[13] and renamed it Fairfax Financial Holdings.[12] He helped grow the company, where it reached annual revenues of $8 billion a year in 2012.[12] Despite his success, he largely stayed out of the public eye, only beginning to hold investor conference calls in 2001.[12][13]

On 22 January 2012, it was reported he was to be appointed to the board of directors of Research In Motion (RIM) in the company's largest ever corporate shakeup. Watsa resigned in August 2013, but kept his investment in the company. On 23 September 2013, BlackBerry announced that it had signed a letter of intent to be acquired by Fairfax Financial Holdings in a $4.7 billion deal.[15] Fairfax Financial Holdings is "the largest insurer of the for-profit bail industry in the U.S."[16]

In April 2017, Watsa brought attention to concerns of a real estate bubble in Toronto. He asserts that most Canadian banks cannot survive a 50% drop in the value of real estate. "It's going to come down, and a lot of people are going to get hurt" said Watsa during Fairfax's annual general meeting.[17]


He 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 June 2009, he was appointed as the ninth chancellor of the University of Waterloo.[18]

He was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 2015.[19] Watsa was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame in 2024.[20]

In September 2017, he was elected as the first chancellor of Huron University College.[21]

See also


  1. ^ "Prem Watsa".
  2. ^ ( - Executive Profile - Prem Watsa/FFH) [1][dead link]
  3. ^ ( - Executive Profile - Prem Watsa/FFH) [2][dead link]
  4. ^ Yahoo! Finance - Company Profile of Fairfax Financial[dead link]
  5. ^ Gad, Sham (5 December 2007). "How to Dodge the Debt". The Motley Fool. Retrieved 24 May 2023.
  6. ^ " Short shrift". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 20 April 2006. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  7. ^ Feeley, Jef (22 April 2010). "Zenith National Investors Lose Bid to Halt Buyout". Bloomberg. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  8. ^ "Anand Mahindra, Venu Srinivasan to be honoured with Padma Bhushan; founder to get Padma Shri". The Economic Times. 26 January 2020. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  9. ^ "Ministry of Home Affairs" (PDF). Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  10. ^ "IIT Madras congratulates its professors, alumnus on being conferred with Padma awards". Hindustan Times. 26 January 2020. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  11. ^ "Citations: 1999 Distinguished Alumnus Awards Recipients - Office Of Alumni Relations".
  12. ^ a b c d e f Castaldo, Joe (10 October 2013). "The man with nothing to lose". Canadian Business. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  13. ^ a b c Doval, Pankaj (25 September 2013). "Prem Watsa, the 'richest, savviest guy you've never heard of'". Gadgets Now. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  14. ^ "Members: V. Prem Watsa". Horatio Alger Association of Canada. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  15. ^ "Indian Billionaire Prem Watsa buying Blackberry for $4.7 Billion". Retrieved 24 September 2013.
  16. ^ "ACLU News & Commentary". American Civil Liberties Union.
  17. ^ "'People are going to get hurt': Fairfax's Prem Watsa says Toronto real estate bubble will burst". Financial Post. 20 April 2017.
  18. ^ "Home - Waterloo News". 26 June 2012.
  19. ^ "Four Nova Scotians among Order of Canada honourees". The Chronicle-Herald, 1 July 2015.
  20. ^ "Meet this year's Inductees to the Canadian Business Hall of Fame". Globe and Mail.
  21. ^ "Prem Watsa appointed Chancellor of Huron". Archived from the original on 10 September 2018. Retrieved 24 May 2023.