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Buffett's Success: Skill or Luck?

Needless to say, Taleb's words had barely made it to the online forum before being pounced upon by a number of Buffett followers. Among them was Janet Tavakoli, president of Tavakoli Structured Finance and author of a book based on the famous investor.

In a scathing email to CNBC, she defended Buffett's investing record and offered up Taleb's own Empirica Kurtosis fund, which after a strong initial performance posted years of subpar returns and eventually closed, as a more appropriate example of dumb luck.

Interestingly, though no response has come from Buffett himself, there is a chance that he and Nassim Taleb may actually see eye to eye. When asked about his success in an interview with the BBC in late 2009, the Oracle of Omaha himself echoed the author's feelings, saying, "...if I was born in a different time or a different place, I'd be an animal's lunch. I'm lucky..."

Whether due to skill or luck, it's hard to deny Buffett's success. He may have benefited from a bull market in stocks, but his long track record of beating the S&P 500 shows that his ability to find undervalued companies also plays a role in his success.

Even though he failed to beat the S&P 500 in 2009, Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) pocketed billions with his bets on both the struggling Goldman Sachs (GS) and the small Chinese electric car company, BYD.

With the amount of heat that Taleb's statements about Buffett have generated, and with many investors now becoming shareholders via index ETFs and mutual funds, it would be interesting to see what readers at TheStreet.com have to say about the issue. Where do you stand?

Please feel free to leave a comment below sharing your take on Buffett's investing success.

-- Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.

Stock quotes in this article: BRK.B, IYF, GS 
At the time of publication, Dion has no holdings in the equities mentioned.

Don Dion is president and founder of Dion Money Management, a fee-based investment advisory firm to affluent individuals, families and nonprofit organizations, where he is responsible for setting investment policy, creating custom portfolios and overseeing the performance of client accounts. Founded in 1996 and based in Williamstown, Mass., Dion Money Management manages assets for clients in 49 states and 11 countries. Dion is a licensed attorney in Massachusetts and Maine and has more than 25 years' experience working in the financial markets, having founded and run two publicly traded companies before establishing Dion Money Management.

Dion also is publisher of the Fidelity Independent Adviser family of newsletters, which provides to a broad range of investors his commentary on the financial markets, with a specific emphasis on mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. With more than 100,000 subscribers in the U.S. and 29 other countries, Fidelity Independent Adviser publishes six monthly newsletters and three weekly newsletters. Its flagship publication, Fidelity Independent Adviser, has been published monthly for 11 years and reaches 40,000 subscribers.

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