Meet Borsheims' Newest Salesman: "Crazy Warren"

By: WOWT, The Associated Press Email
By: WOWT, The Associated Press Email

Omaha billionaire Warren Buffett worked the jewelry counter at one of the businesses owned by Berkshire Hathaway for about two hours Sunday afternoon.

Buffett gave Borsheims' customers “Crazy Warren” prices as part of the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders weekend. Customers purchased a variety of items from Buffett, including the last six of 26 diamonds with his name engraved on them.

Buffett’s first customer, Eric LaFante, told his girlfriend he was buying a necklace but instead bought an engagement ring, dropped to his knee and proposed. Buffett handed them two glasses of champagne and gave a toast.

One day after the company's annual meeting attracted roughly 38,000 people to CenturyLink Center Omaha, shareholders participated in a 5k run. Three of Buffett's key assistants, Tracy Britt Cool and investment managers Ted Weschler and Todd Combs, led the race downtown.

Buffett and fellow Berkshire executive Charlie Munger spent more than five hours taking questions from shareholders, reporters and stock analysts on Saturday.

When asked by a shareholder about the possibility of splitting Berkshire’s collection of 80-odd companies into four separate companies, Buffett said he thought that would be a terrible idea.

"We would not unlock value. We would lose significant value.” Buffett said Berkshire is worth significantly more as it stands today because cash can move between different subsidiaries and there are tax benefits.

An error revealed recently by Bank of America in its reports to the Federal Reserve hasn't diminished Buffett's appreciation of the bank. Buffett said he's not bothered that the bank had to suspend a long-awaited dividend increase and stock buyback due to the error.

Back in 2011, Buffett invested $5 billion in Bank of America in exchange for six percent interest and warrants to buy 700 million shares of stock at $7.14 apiece. "It doesn't change my feeling about the Bank of America in any way.”

The bank's mistake was tied to an incorrect adjustment of how it valued securities it obtained through its acquisition of Merrill Lynch in 2009. The bank must now resubmit a new capital plan to Fed. Berkshire Hathaway also has large investments in Wells Fargo & Co., U.S. Bancorp and Goldman Sachs.

Over an entire career of making investment decisions, Buffett and Munger have made their share of mistakes. Munger said the key to Berkshire's success over time has been "ignorance removal" and "scrambling out of mistakes."

When Buffett and Munger took control of Berkshire, it was a struggling New England textile mill and a couple of their first acquisitions of a department store and a trading stamp company floundered. "Think of what we might have done if we had a better start," said Munger.

Buffett poked fun at himself by singing a duet with Paul Anka to start the meeting. One of the videotaped skits featured Buffett and Anka singing a Berkshire-themed parody of "My Way." The lyrics were written by Anka and the song made famous by Frank Sinatra. Buffett referenced in the song a past investing mistake, buying Dexter shoes. He also paid tribute to one of his assistants, Debbie Bosanek, as the brains of Berkshire.

Anka attended the meeting. The 83-year-old Buffett joked that his pairing with Anka was part of his succession planning so he and Anka will be available to sing at weddings. Buffett also said someone offered him $1,000 if they both sang or $10,000 if Anka sang alone.

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