Today, Warren Buffett gives regular interviews to the financial press when he was just starting out, the press was hardly interested in a Warren Buffett Interview and he gave were few and far between. This is a shame because the early part of Buffett’s career was arguably the most interesting as he laid the foundations for Berkshire Hathaway to become one of the world’s largest conglomerates.
I recently stumbled across this interview Buffett gave to the Wall Street Journal in 1977, less than a decade after Buffett closed his partnerships.
Lost Warren Buffett Interview from 1977
The first part of the Warren Buffett Interview, the Oracle of Omaha expresses “a tremendous relief” to be running Berkshire and not his partnerships. “I’m having a lot of fun because I’m only going into businesses that I find interesting and where I like people running them, and their products.” Buffett says before continuing “It’d a tremendous relief being out of money management and not constantly thinking about business anymore. During the partnership, my ego was on the line, and I was trying to lead the league in hitting every year”
The article goes on to discuss Berkshire’s Empire at the time. Buffett had just completed the deal to buy Buffalo Evening News and the group also owned 80% of Wesco Financial, Diversified Retailing Sees Candies and Blue Chip Stamps among others at the time (excluding $100 million of equity holdings).
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In the 1977 Warren Buffett Interview, the famous investor says that “I usually don’t need to get involved because I’m careful to buy well-run companies from owners who built the enterprises and stay on to run them... I like guys who forget that they sold the business to me and run the show like proprietors. When I marry the daughter, she continues to live with her parents.” According to the interview, at the time, the majority of Buffett’s Berkshire portfolio holdings were acquired based on their inflation protection qualities. The year before he had advised fellow trustees of Grinnell College Iowa to spend $13 million to buy the NBC television affiliate in Dayton Ohio for the endowment. “It seemed to me” Buffett stated, “that the station’s profits would keep pace with the colleges costs better than traditional investments. After all, the advertising budgets from which broadcasters derive most of their revenues tend to reflect current dollars and rise with the gross national product.”
“Mr. Buffett has taken some lumps, ” the interviewer writes “several years ag, for example, Berkshire Hathaway lost half of a $6 million investment in Vornado Inc. a discount retailing concern.” Buffett said of the matter, “the stock looked to be undervalued when I bought it, but I proved to be incredibly wrong about the discount department store business.” Another loser was stamp company Sperry & Hutchinson Co in 1974 as well as Blue Chip, which at the time had been a “lackluster performer.”
See the full interview here