Buffett's '08 Bargain Binge: $20 billion +

The final tally from Warren Buffett’s 2008 buying spree: $20 billion-plus. “While most investors panicked or were forced to sell, [Buffett] put more than $20 billion to work last year, positioning his insurance-focused conglomerate to profit if the economy and markets recover in coming years,” writes Alistair Barr of MarketWatch.

Buffett’s firm had about $44 billion in cash entering ’08, according to Barr, who notes that Buffett had had trouble finding attractively valued investments in recent years. That changed last year, however. Among his big buys in ’08: purchase of 60% of Marmon Holdings for $4.5 billion; a $3 billion investment in Dow Chemical; a $6.3 billion stake in Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.; and  the well-publicized $8 billion he invested in GE and Goldman Sachs as the financial crisis was in full effect.

In addition, Berkshire boosted its stake in several firms, including ConocoPhillips, Burlington Northern railroad, and U.S. Bancorp, Barr notes.