In an unfashionable corner of the American heartland sits a self-effacing business leader who can boast that his company's book value has grown 26 times faster than the S&P 500 in the more than five decades since he took control.

Guided by fundamentals rather than fashion, he has become one of the world's wealthiest people by sticking to unglamorous businesses that provide the essentials of everyday life and bringing insight to the markets in which they are traded. Well past his 80th year, he faces inevitable interest in succession, but his record looks as secure as it has ever been.

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