Tom Gayner’s Markel’s Top Stock Picks Include Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.B)

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A)Insurance company Markel invests much of its cash in the market under the management of Tom Gayner. We track Markel Gayner Asset Management’s quarterly 13F filings in our database, which we use to help us develop investment strategies; we have found, for example, that the most popular small cap stocks among hedge funds earn an average excess return of 18 percentage points per year (learn more about our small cap strategy). We can also go through individual filers’ top picks and treat them as free investment ideas, with investors then doing further research on any stocks which seem like they might be good values. Read on for our quick take on Markel’s five largest holdings as of the end of March or see the full list of stocks the insurance company reported owning.

The largest position in Gayner’s portfolio was Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.B); he reported a position of 1.6 million Class B shares and a little over 1,000 Class A shares as well. Warren Buffett’s holding company (check out Warren Buffett’s stock picks) trades at a significant premium to the book value of its equity with a P/B ratio of 1.5. To some degree this can be justified to the extent that Buffett is an excellent investor and the managers of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.B)’s subsidiary companies are top performers as well, but we think investors should be somewhat concerned about how effective Buffett’s successors will be.

Tom GaynerMarkel owned 5.1 million shares of CarMax, Inc (NYSE:KMX) as of the beginning of April. The used vehicles retailer has had its stock price rise over 80% in the last year, and business has been booming with revenue and net income both up about 20% in its most recent quarter compared to the same period in the previous fiscal year. Some further growth is priced in at a trailing P/E of 24 but given the company’s good results we’d be interested in learning more about it anyway. First Pacific Advisors initiated a position of 1.7 million shares in CarMax, Inc (NYSE:KMX) between January and March.