I approached my research assignment as an investigative reporter. Fortunately, I had some background in this, as, while getting my MBA at Wharton, I was one of Ralph Nader's "Raiders." I coauthored Citibank (along with Ralph Nader and The Center for the Study of Responsive Law), which was published in 1974. This background and my analytical history and experiences have helped me discover some facts that others have failed to find.
Part of my research was spent in interviewing people who were familiar with the business of Berkshire Hathaway and/or personally knew Warren Buffett.
In addition, I prepared for next Saturday by rereading many of the more important books written about The Oracle of Omaha.
I found the best books to include Roger Lowenstein's Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist, Jeff Matthews' Pilgrimage to Warren Buffett's Omaha (coincidentally I had previous endorsed the back cover of JMatt's book!) and Alice Schroeder's The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life. Importantly, I read everything that Fortune's Carol Loomis (who has edited and assisted Mr. Buffett in the preparation of his annual letter since 1977) ever wrote on Buffett and Berkshire -- Tap Dancing to Work was particularly rich in information.Without revealing too much before Saturday's meeting, my research underscored that Buffett is more than an iconic figure in investments, in philanthropy, in humor and in storytelling. He is complex. His interests are more varied than many know. He has an enormous amount of energy. He is a loyal friend. But he can be controlling. I was surprised to find out how much time he puts in to preparing for Berkshire's annual meeting. He is resilient. I was especially surprised by how many investment obstacles he faced and endured over his remarkable career -- whether it was the general market or specific problems in portfolio holdings. Warren Buffett likes people to ask for things, rather than the other way around, and that helps to explain the manner in which the invitation for a "credentialed bear" was delivered in his letter. As evidence of this, in his 2002 letter he invited shareholders who thought they were qualified to send him a letter to nominate themselves to Berkshire's Board of Directors. Again, in 2006 in the Chairman's letter to investors, he advertised for a successor to Geico's investment manager, Lou Simpson. "Send in your resume," he wrote.
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