NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- 2011 was a busy year for billionaire investor, Warren Buffett. Below are a few of the most closely-followed Buffett-related topics that have been in focus over the past 12 months.
Following the Lubrizol purchase, it was also announced that Berkshire Hathaway would buy up the remaining shares of Wesco Financial. Prior to this deal, Wesco and Berkshire had already enjoyed strong ties; the California-based firm is chaired by Buffett's second-in-command, Charlie Munger. During the latter half of the year, however, Buffett's buying habits got more interesting. Marking a dramatic shift from his previous investing habits, Buffett followers learned that the famous technophobe had purchased a more-than $10 billion stake in International Business Machines ( IBM). IBM was just one of the companies the investor took interest in during his staggering third quarter buying frenzy, however. Analysts note that during the three month period ending Sept. 30, the renowned investor put nearly $24 billion to work. This was his largest quarterly cash expenditure in 15 years. With his most recent decisions to purchase the Omaha World-Herald newspaper, and increase his exposure to solar energy, it is clear that Buffett is not ready to hang up his firearm just yet. >>View Warren Buffett's Portfolio
In August, Buffett stepped in to provide struggling Bank of America ( BAC) with a $5 billion cash injection. This is not the first time that the investor has played hero; in 2008, he donned his cape and provided a similar cash infusion to Goldman Sachs ( GS) and General Electric ( GE). According to the most recent deal, in return for his blessing, Bank of America would sell Buffett preferred shares boasting a substantial 6% dividend. In addition, the investor would receive warrants to purchase 700 million common shares at a $7.14 strike price. These warrants will expire in 10 years. Buffett's 2008 transactions played a big role in preventing Goldman and GE from collapse. B of A has continued to flounder in the months following news of Buffett's deal. Looking ahead, however, it will be interesting to see if the firm can turn itself around. The investor confounded investors soon after with news that he was preparing to buy back Berkshire A and Berkshire B ( BRK.B) shares. This is an unprecedented move for the investor who had never before taken such an action while at the helm of Berkshire Hathaway. Initially following this news, emotions were mixed. Some expressed concerns that this buyback program was a sign that the famed investor had officially run out of ideas. Others, however, saw this as a signal that the company was undervalued. Berkshire appears to be siding with the latter. In a statement issued that week, the firm expressed confidence that the company's businesses were worth more than the price at which they planned to buy back shares.
Aside from leaving many to question the ethics of Buffett's hands-off approach to leadership, Sokol's departure also reopened discussion over Buffett's eventual plan for succession. Given his success at the helm of subsidiaries including MidAmerican and NetJets, many pegged Sokol as the likely heir to the Berkshire throne. While, in the past, the octogenarian investor has been coy regarding the plans for post-Buffett Berkshire Hathaway, in the past year, a great deal has been learned as to what can be expected. In the second half of the year, Buffett welcomed Ted Weschler into Berkshire's inner circle. Like 2010 hire, Todd Combs, Weschler originally hailed from the hedge fund industry. Together, the team of Combs, Weschler, and potentially one more individual will share the responsibility of managing the firm's legendary investment portfolio. Buffett also announced that his eldest son, Howard Buffett would take over as non-executive chairman of Berkshire Hathaway upon the investor's departure. In this role, the younger Buffett would be responsible for maintaining the Nebraska-based firm's culture. Howard will not be involved in day-to-day business decisions.
Not everyone is on board with Buffett's plans, however. On the contrary, the investor's stance on taxes has received a great deal of flak from detractors. As we approach 2012, Washington lawmakers continue to butt heads over how best to pare back the nation's looming debt. As we prepare to embark on the New Year, I look forward to seeing what is in store for this world-famous investor. What other Buffett-related stories caught your attention in 2011? Feel free to leave a comment in the space below. My team and I would like to wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday. We thank you for your continued readership.
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