NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There are stocks billionaires like, and then there are those they love. And they demonstrate their affections by investing millions -- and billions -- of dollars in them.
The top holdings of billionaire hedge fund magnates like Carl Icahn, Bill Ackman and Warren Buffett tell a lot about the investors themselves. Signaling their most significant conviction picks in the equity markets, the investments can provide insights into the strategies and perceptions of each. They are also often the source of some pretty interesting backstories.
So where are billionaires placing the biggest of their big bets, and what are the narratives behind them?
Here is the look at the favorite stocks of 20 of Wall Street's best and just how much they've invested in each.
1. Warren Buffett -- Wells Fargo, $25.6 Billion
Warren Buffett's love affair with Wells Fargo (WFC - Get Report) stretches across decades. In his 1990 letter to Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) (BRK.B) shareholders, the Oracle of Omaha revealed his firm had increased its ownership in Wells Fargo to just under 10% -- the most it was allowed to own without the approval of the Federal Reserve. He called WFC "a superbly-managed, high-return banking operation."
Twenty-five years later, Buffett continues betting on Wells Fargo. In fact, in the first quarter of 2015, he upped his stake in the firm for the first time in nearly two years. Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway today own 9.5% of all of Wells Fargo's outstanding shares.
2. Carl Icahn -- Icahn Enterprises, $9.8 Billion
Carl Icahn really, really likes Apple (AAPL - Get Report) -- but not as much as he likes his own company, Icahn Enterprises (IEP - Get Report). His namesake holding company comprises nearly one third of his public equity portfolio.
As IEP's chairman, Icahn earns an annual salary of just $1; however, he is by no means hurting for cash. The billionaire owns nearly 90% of all of Icahn Enterprises' outstanding shares, and the company has done well. According to a May 2015 investor presentation reported by ValueWalk, IEP has produced a total return of 1,485% since January 1, 2000.
3. Ray Dalio -- Vanguard Emerging Markets ETF, $4.6 Billion
Ray Dalio's public equity portfolio is largely allocated to just three ETFs, with his most significant stake being the Vanguard Emerging Markets ETF (VWO). The FTSE Emerging Index it tracks is comprised of more than 900 emerging-market stocks from countries like China, Taiwan, India, Brazil and South Africa.
The founder of the world's largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, Dalio employs a global macro style of investing. He and his team look for overarching economic trends, and apparently, emerging markets is an area about which they're optimistic. You can get a glimpse of Dalio's approach to the markets in a 30-minute video he put together, How the Economic Machine Works.
4. Bill Ackman -- Valeant, $3.9 Billion
In early 2014, Bill Ackman and pharmaceutical giant Valeant (VRX) teamed up in a bid to take over Allergan (AGN - Get Report). But when the Botox maker agreed instead to be bought by Actavis (ACT) in November, many thought the Ackman-Valeant affair was over. In fact, it was anything but.
In March, Ackman's Pershing Square revealed it had purchased a 5% stake in Valeant Pharmaceuticals, making it the Canadian drug company's fifth-largest shareholder. His latest regulatory filing revealed his position to be valued at $3.9 billion. And Bill Ackman appears to really believe in Valeant. In early May, he went as far as to suggest the company could be the next Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) (BRK.B) .
5. John Paulson -- Shire, $2 Billion
Six months ago, John Paulson was likely singing a very different tune on Shire (SHPG) than he is today. The billionaire took a big hit in October 2014 when a merger deal between Shire and AbbVie (ABBV) fell through. And his subsequent push to get Allergan (now acquired by Actavis (ACT)) to pick up Shire failed as well. But if you don't succeed, try, try again -- or in John Paulson's case, just keep investing.
Shire has proven one of Paulson's best M&A bets of the year, and though it hasn't been acquired, it has been acquiring. It picked up NPS Pharmaceuticals in February, and its stock has enjoyed a solid climb of more than 20% in 2015.
6. Nelson Peltz -- DuPont, $1.8 Billion
Nelson Peltz's relationship with his top stock pick, chemical company DuPont (DD), is contentious. After engaging in a months-long proxy battle to get four seats on its board and push for a breakup, Peltz conceded defeat in May.
However, the activist investor at the helm of Trian Fund Management isn't throwing in the towel on DuPont just yet. "We believe we can make DuPont great again," he told CNBC in an interview after losing the shareholder vote for board seats. "Whatever the results we're proud of the role we've played as a positive change agent."
7. Dan Loeb -- Amgen, $1.6 Billion
Dan Loeb began testing the waters on Amgen (AMGN) during the second quarter of 2014 with the purchase of about 450,000 shares. But by December, he had amped up his stake in a big way, and as of the end of the first quarter of 2015, he holds 10 million Amgen shares, valued at $1.6 billion.
Loeb has dedicated numerous paragraphs to the biotech company in his quarterly letters to Third Point investors. In his third quarter communication, he called Amgen a "pioneer in the biotechnology industry" and said that its long-term underperformance relative to its peers was "surprising." By the time his fourth quarter letter came out in February, the landscape on Amgen was looking quite bright to Loeb, who admitted the company was his biggest winner of 2014.
8. Steve Mandel -- Priceline, $1.5 Billion
Steve Mandel isn't the most vocal billionaire investor, and his hedge fund, Lone Pine Capital, often flies under the radar as well. Lately, the firm has given a few indications of where it thinks the market is headed, but it hasn't had much to say about its top pick, Priceline (PCLN).
In his letters to investors in 2015, Mandel has warned of "eye-popping" valuations and zero-rate interest policies that create distortions in equity markets. Mala Gaonkar, co-portfolio manager at Lone Pine, talked legacy tech at the Sohn Investment Conference and specifically targeted Microsoft (MSFT) within the field. Mum's been the word on Priceline, however, which has been in the Lone Pine portfolio for years.
9. Bruce Berkowitz -- AIG, $1.3 Billion
Bruce Berkowitz halved his stake in AIG (AIG) in the first quarter of the year; however, the insurance company remains the top holding in his public equity portfolio.
In his annual letter to Fairholme Capital Management investors, Berkowitz called AIG the fund's locomotive and commended the company's 25% quarterly dividend increase and $3.4 billion stock buyback program. "If management is able to deliver underwriting margins and expense efficiencies consistent with its peer group, then the company's book value and stock price will meaningfully increase," he wrote. "We shall soon see."
10. Larry Robbins -- Monsanto, $1.1 Billion
Larry Robbins likes what he sees at Monsanto (MON). He began building a stake in agricultural products company in the fourth quarter of 2013 and has consistently added to it since. As of the end of the first quarter, his position is valued at $1.1 billion.
Robbins discussed his Monsanto thesis in a May interview with Bloomberg. "One of the things that attracted us to Monsanto was that their management and board identified that they were building up too much cash on the balance sheet, started to buy back stock at a more accelerated rate, have already set forth a timeframe for review of their capital structure. And so they're asking all the right questions," he said. In a February interview with CNBC, he said Monsanto's business characteristics lead him to believe it should be "levered 2 ½, four times."
11. Edward Lampert - Sears Holdings, $1.1 Billion
Edward Lampert took over as CEO of Sears Holdings (SHLD) in 2013 and has worked to turn the retailer around ever since, garnering mixed results.
The billionaire has raised billions of dollars at Sears since taking over by spinning off assets, leasing out space and selling off stores. In a May 6 blog post, he discussed his measures and what lies ahead. "As important as it is to have a good plan and adapt to changing circumstances, you also need to find the resources to effect the transformation," he wrote, explaining that he hopes the $2.4 billion generated in 2014 will drive Sears' transformation forward at a faster pace.
12. David Einhorn -- Apple, $925.4 Million
Apple (AAPL - Get Report) has proved a bright spot for David Einhorn in recent months. In his first quarter letter to Greenlight Capital investors, he acknowledged the first few months of the year had been "uneventful and unprofitable" for the firm, though its long positions -- led by Apple and SunEdison (SUNE) -- did well.
Einhorn's stake in Apple dates back to the second quarter of 2010. His holdings peaked in 2013, when he reported over 16 million shares. As of his most recent holdings disclosure, he holds 7.4 million. But even though he has scaled back his position in the tech giant, it remains his top public equity holding, and his hopes remain high. "We believe that AAPL is a superior company that merits a premium multiple," he wrote in his first quarter letter to investors.
13. Chase Coleman -- JD.com, $614.7 Million
Chase Coleman's Tiger Global has a taste for tech companies, including those based in China. And it appears to be betting heavily on Shanghai-based e-commerce company JD.com (JD), of which it holds 20.9 million shares.
In Tiger's first quarter letter to investors, the firm wrote JD.com is positioned to "retail leapfrogging" in emerging markets. "While the stock has performed well and expectations have risen, we continue to believe that JD is attractively valued over the long term and well-positioned within a large and growing e-commerce market," the firm wrote.
14. David Tepper -- General Motors, $573.6 Million
David Tepper really likes General Motors (GM). Not only does he have a $573.6 million stake in the company as of the end of the first quarter, but he also has a $113.9 million call option on the automaker as well.
Tepper's Appaloosa Management was one of a group of hedge funds to back Harry Wilson in his push to join GM's board and advocate for an $8 billion stock repurchase program from the company. In March, General Motors successfully moved to avoid the impending proxy battle by agreeing to launch a $5 billion buyback and boosting its quarterly dividend to $0.36 from $0.30.
15. George Soros and Julian Robertson -- Alibaba, $423 Million (Combined)
By the looks of it, investment veterans George Soros and Julian Robertson think there's something good happening at Alibaba (BABA) -- like a lot of other investors. As of the end of the first quarter, the two have invested $370 million and $53 million, respectively, in the Chinese e-commerce giant. BABA is the top stock holding of both (though it is worth noting Robertson has also reported a sizable put option in Amazon (AMZN) ).
Alibaba went public in September 2014 in the largest global IPO to date. Originally priced at $68 per share, the stock has climbed as high as $120 but has since settled back down. Soros hasn't had much to stay about the stock, but Robertson has commented. At the Bloomberg Markets Most Influential Conference in September 2014, the billionaire called Alibaba a "fabulous company."
16. Wilbur Ross -- Navigator Holdings, $417.6 Million
Wilbur Ross has been tied to Navigator Holdings (NVGS) for quite some time. He controlled much of the goings on at the company -- the owner and operator of the world's largest fleet of liquefied gas carriers -- prior to its $228 million IPO in 2013.
Ross has since taken a step back from Navigator Holdings and resigned from its board in 2014. However, the company remains the No. 1 stock among the nine public equity holdings disclosed by his Invesco Private Capital.
17. Leon Cooperman -- Actavis, $277.8 Million
Bill Ackman dominated airwaves in the 2014 battle for Botox maker Allergan, which Actavis (ACT) ultimately won. The Pershing Square head made more than $2 billion on the deal, but he wasn't the only billionaire investor to come out ahead.
Actavis became Leon Cooperman's top holding in the fourth quarter of 2014 and maintains the spot as of the end of the first quarter of 2015. The Omega Advisors head pitched the company at the 2015 Sohn Investment Conference in May and said it has "a projectable 15% growth rate." Actavis hit a home run with its latest earnings report and indicated it expects more good things to come, thanks in large art to double-digit growth in its Allergan business.
18. Richard Chilton - W.R. Grace & Co., $187 Million
W.R. Grace & Co. (GRA) has a bit of a murky past. The chemical company emerged from bankruptcy after 12 years in February 2014 and has a legacy of asbestos-tainted products that has cost it billions of dollars. But billionaire Richard Chilton hasn't waited for W.R. Grace & Co. to have all of its ducks in a row before investing. He first bought into the firm in the third quarter of 2012, and as of his most recent regulatory disclosure, his position is valued at $187 million.
It would appear that Chilton's bet could pay off. In February, W.R. Grace & Co. announced plans to separate into two independent publicly traded companies. The transaction, which is intended to be a tax-free spinoff for shareholders, is expected to be completed this year.
19. Marc Lasry -- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $134.7 Million
Marc Lasry's Avenue Capital was along for the ride on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMHC) when it emerged from bankruptcy in 2012 to go public in 2013. Paulson & Co., the hedge fund run by fellow billionaire John Paulson, was also among those selling shares in the 2013 IPO and remains a shareholder of the public company today.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is a global education and learning company specializing in a wide array of content. Headquartered in Boston, the company's brands include Curious George and The Lord of the Rings.
20. Jorge Lemann -- 21st Century Fox, $68.8 Million
Brazilian billionaire Jorge Lemann has become increasingly interested in 21st Century Fox (FOX) in recent quarters, and during the first three months of 2015, the media conglomerate became his top holding.
Lemann and his firm, 3G Capital, appear to be quite fond of many iconic American companies. This year, 3G joined forces with Berkshire Hathaway in investing $10 billion to form the Kraft Heinz Company, and it has also maneuvered major deals with Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) and Burger King, now Restaurant Brands International (QSR).