Alice Schroeder – The Snowball: Warren Buffett And The Business Of Life

The legendary Omaha investor has sworn never to write a memoir, but now has allowed one writer unprecedented access to explore directly with him and those closest to him his work, opinions, struggles, triumphs, follies and wisdom. Warren Buffett is an array of paradoxes: He set out to prove that nice guys finish first, and over the years has treated his investors as partners and championed honesty to all. At the same time he became the world’s richest man, all from the modest Omaha headquarters of his company Berkshire Hathaway. Yet notable though his wealth may be, Buffett’s legacy will not be his ranking on the scorecard of wealth; it will be his principles and ideas that have enriched people’s lives.

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The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder

The Snowball: Warren Buffett And The Business Of Life


Ken thank you very much. And thank you all very much for having me. So what I'd like to do today and talk a little bit about the journey that brought me to writing this book. And also I know many of you will have questions about that too. The mind of the people who came together to create the largest foundation in history and one that will change the world. And I will answer all the questions that you want about that. I'm not going to talk so much about that gift and my presentation because it's a speech topic in and of itself. And so I answer as many questions as you want but what I'd like to do is more talk about Warren Buffett and a little bit about Bill Gates and the two of them and right journey to write this book as to help you understand a little bit as a prelude to see why Warren Buffett is the usual person that he is and the story of the writing of this book and that might help introduce a little bit of the subject of how he came around to the decision to give the money to the Gates Foundation. I first met wern in 1998 when I was an analyst at PaineWebber and it was just the beginning of the period when the Internet bubble began to really take off. And at that time I was an analyst following insurance stocks and Berkshire Hathaway had become mostly an insurance company.

By following the path of acquiring companies it had just bought General Reinsurance which was a very large company and I was the only at worst on Wall Street who followed the stock and Warren decided that he would talk to one analyst on the street. And because he had gotten interested in my research and I was the only person following the stock I ended up getting to go out to Omaha and see him about once a year. Talk to him on the phone whenever I wanted and I ended up becoming a fairly close observer to what was happening to him during this period of time. At the time the business press was harshly critical of him. Somebody said that you know the technology investors had made a chimpanzee out of work Buffett and some of the things that were being said about him were really really pejorative. He was following the tried and true investment method that he always has and he never came out in public. He never commented on it. You always just continue to do what he's always done which is the value investing philosophy. But I asked him one time how he felt about this barrage of criticism that he was receiving in the press and this was the first time that I got any kind of insight into the personality of Warren what he was like because up until then I had only known him as an investor and a businessman and when I asked him how did he feel about this CGIAR criticism. He said it never gets better it always hurts just as much as the first time. Despite having heard over and over and over these things it was really remarkable that he could withstand us that he could not change his style at all.

And yet it was clear that he found the personal criticism intensely painful and was very very sensitive to it. During that time he went out to Sun Valley in July 1999 and he gave a speech that might have been the most remarkable of his career. And I opened the book with that speech in Chapter 2 which is called Sun Valley the Sun Valley conference is a group of our media people who meet in the mountains every year in Sun Valley Idaho. And it's the Allegany company conference. It's a very exclusive event of high level people and Bill Gates goes to it weren't always goes to it and they have presentations. How many of you have heard of that have you or any of you heard Sonali. It's it's partly social. They also have presentations in the mornings and the media reporters are not allowed to attend these events. So people get up at the podium and they say things that they would not normally see in front of the press. In this case in gave a speech in which he talked about the stock market and he gave the history of technology from the advent of automobiles to the airplane forward. And he talked about periods during which the stock market had performed badly for as long as 17 years at a time in fact he was prophetic. He made a lot of jokes and he kidded around and he wasn't personal about it but he talked to a roomful of people many of whom had Internet startup companies a number of which are no longer with us. And he told them that the valuations of the Internet stocks at the time were.