Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Buffett's $ 50 Billion Decision

Some comments of interest by Warren Buffett regarding his early days from this recent ForbesLife magazine article:

On Retiring
...when I got out of college, I had $9,800, but by the end of 1955, I was up to $127,000. I thought, I'll go back to Omaha, take some college classes, and read a lot—I was going to retire! I figured we could live on $12,000 a year, and off my $127,000 asset base, I could easily make that. I told my wife, Compound interest guarantees I'm going to get rich.

On Buying A House
I told my wife, "I'd be glad to buy a house, but that's like a carpenter selling his toolkit." I didn't want to use up my capital.

In the article, he adds that he had no plans to start a partnership or even get a job.

He also didn't want to sell securities to others again.

On Forming A Partnership
"You used to sell stocks, and we want you to tell us what to do with our money." I replied, "I'm not going to do that again, but I'll form a partnership...and if you want to join me, you can." ...That was the beginning—totally accidental.

Five decades plus later that simple start became what is effectively a partnership (although the form is technically corporate) with a combined value of $ 200 billion and roughly 270,000 employees.

Buffett certainly views it as a partnership. From the Berkshire Hathaway (BRKaowners manual:

Although our form is corporate, our attitude is partnership. Charlie Munger and I think of our shareholders as owner-partners, and of ourselves as managing partners. (Because of the size of our shareholdings we are also, for better or worse, controlling partners.) We do not view the company itself as the ultimate owner of our business assets but instead view the company as a conduit through which our shareholders own the assets.

He was certainly right about compound interest making him rich, though I'm guessing he couldn't have imagined the partnership would become anything like its current size and form.

Adam
 
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