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The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

A detailed, candid exploration of "the oracle of Omaha."

(Page 2 of 2)

•As the Buffett children matured, Susie never lost her affection for Warren. She did, however, lose her patience with his needy and distracted ways. Finally, she moved to San Francisco.

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Before she left, Susie asked Astrid Menks, a young Omaha chef, to oversee his diet. Warren was a notoriously picky eater who refused to try new sorts of cuisine, often preferring hamburgers and fries. Eventually, Astrid became Warren’s other “wife.” They became legally married after Susie’s death.

According to Schroeder’s research, Susie and Astrid got along well, accepting their distinct roles.

•Buffett forged intense semipublic relationships with numerous other accomplished women, most famously Katharine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post. As a result, Graham provided entrée for Buffett into the previously foreign worlds of media management and high society.

•Buffett’s business relationships with men could be equally intense. Schroeder, mentions hundreds, but two stand out. One is Charles Munger, an Omaha native who became a Los Angeles lawyer. The two met while Buffett was still in his 20s; they became lifelong confidants and business partners.

The other arrived much later: Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire nearly three decades Buffett’s junior. The men became business and philanthropic soul mates almost immediately.

Trying to summarize Buffett is ultimately hopeless.

Schroeder makes the attempt, however, and I will give her the final words: “His life was fascinating, his business accomplishments important, the principles through which he had succeeded worthy of study. So far as could be determined, everyone who knew him personally liked the man. His kaleidoscope personality perpetually revealed new facets, yet remained faithful at its core to his Inner Scorecard. The one thing he would always be the best at was being himself.”

Steve Weinberg is author of “Taking on the Trust: The Epic Battle of Ida Tarbell and John D. Rockefeller.”

Warren Buffett’s three main principles (as learned from Columbia University professor Ben Graham):

•A stock is the right to own a little piece of a business. A stock is worth a certain fraction of what you would pay for the whole business.
•Use a margin of safety.  Investing is built on estimates and uncertainty.  A wide margin of safety ensures that the effects of good decisions are not wiped out by errors.  The way to advance, above all, is by not retreating.
•Mr. Market is your servant, not your master.... Mr. Market ... offers to buy and sell stocks every day, often at prices that don’t make sense. Mr. Market’s moods should not influence your view of price. However, from time to time, he does offer the chance to buy low and sell high.

– From ‘The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life’ by Alice Schroeder


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