Warren Watch: Buffett 'cousins' Warren and Jimmy share an on-air moment - Omaha.com
Published Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:00 am / Updated at 11:21 am
Warren Watch: Buffett 'cousins' Warren and Jimmy share an on-air moment

Having a famous “cousin” comes in handy.

Although they are not truly related, Warren Buffett and Jimmy Buffett have become friends, beyond the occasional appearance on a stage with stringed instruments (Warren on ukulele, Jimmy on guitar).

Dan Patrick's DirectTV-produced radio show got the two on the phone recently at the same time, and Patrick asked whether Warren had ever given Jimmy business advice.

“The best piece of advice he ever gave me,” Jimmy said, “there was a deal — it was a big thing at the time — and he said, 'Well, can you live without it?' And I said, 'Well, I could, but I'd like to do it.' But he said, 'Do what you want to do and be prepared for them to say no.'

“That's been the greatest piece of advice because in that particular deal they said no, and then it worked out a lot better for me.”

Warren also warned Jimmy away from buying a major-league baseball franchise.

“If you're a rich guy and you buy a major league team, I mean, a really rich guy,” Warren said, “and then you trade away one of your better players or something, or you don't pick up one that you could buy, people will say you're too cheap to get us a pennant.

“The whole town will get sore at you.”

Patrick asked which Buffett is more likely to be recognized walking down the street in New York City.

“It depends on the neighborhood,” Jimmy said.

“Do it on Wall Street, I've got a chance,” Warren said. “Anyplace else, I lose.”

“I'd take Warren in the Village, I think,” Jimmy said.

If your bracket should win

Let's say you win the $1 billion that Berkshire Hathaway Inc., Buffett's Omaha-based conglomerate, has at stake this spring when college basketball teams compete for the NCAA men's championship.

(We here at WW Central hereby predict that at least one person will send in a perfect online bracket showing all the tournament winners, despite the seemingly long odds against picking all the winners. Berkshire's insurance division sold a policy to Quicken Loans to cover the grand prize, if any.)

So you've gone to Quicken Loans' Facebook site, filled in the winning teams' names and survived the heart-pounding finale when your team won and your bracket was perfect.

What should you do with all that money?

Some tips from experts, via USNews.com:

1. Don't tell anybody. It's worth the secrecy to find out who your real friends are (and avoid your enemies) and to skip the hassle and safety issues that come with being really rich.

2. Do nothing for as long as possible. That helps prevent blundering into spending that you'll regret. Give yourself time to think and ease into wealth.

3. Take care of debt, retirement plans and taxes first.

4. Hire a trustworthy financial team, including an estate planning lawyer and, especially, a tax accountant. And maybe a security firm, too.

5. Be careful in dealings with friends and family. Establish criteria for “loans,” which are actually business deals. Think about sending all requests through your attorney. ALL requests.

Ignoring those steps can send you back to poverty. Or even the middle class.

BYD will pay to settle dispute

BYD, the Chinese battery and vehicle company that is 10 percent owned by Berkshire, said it would pay a $1,900 fine but denied allegations that it underpaid some workers or violated work rules, Reuters reported.

The company also said it would hire more local employees for its 50-worker electric bus plant in California.

The California labor commissioner alleged that BYD hadn't paid five Chinese workers the required $8-per-hour minimum wage. BYD said it had paid the workers in Chinese currency worth between $12 and $16 an hour but would pay the fine to settle the matter.

BYD said it has loaned some Chinese engineers and others to transfer BYD technology to the U.S. plant but would not displace American workers. The company said a labor union group is supplying misinformation about its U.S. facility.

The labor office said other labor practices by BYD remain an issue, including omitting information from employees' check stubs and denying flexible restroom privileges. The company has denied those allegations.

Travel insurance, assistance

We suspect that Berkshire's Specialty Insurance division is more interested in Insure America, a travel insurance business, than the travel assistant service portion of its planned acquisition from Noel Group.

Noel's MyAssist Inc. service has gotten more attention, since it provides live connections to agents for Ford and Mercedes drivers who need on-the-road personal assistance.

Insure America, based in Stevens Point, Wis., sells professional liability insurance for travel agents and tour operators, covering mistakes in bookings, cancellations and other risks related to the travel business.

John and Patty Noel founded Noel Group and describe it as “a family of companies built around integrity, honesty, philanthropy and world-class customer service.”

In a press release, Peter Eastwood, president of Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance, praised the Noel businesses' products and customer service, which he said would “help us extend our brand and create new business opportunities.”

Backing for Dow CEO

Buffett met recently with Andrew Liveris, chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical, and, according to Liveris, supports company management's present course, CNBC said.

Dow has been under pressure from activist investor Dan Loeb to spin off its petrochemical unit and focus on its specialty materials products.

CNBC's “Squawk Box” program reported that Liveris said Buffett told him, “We're an owner and we like being an owner. And frankly, we think you've been running the company for the investors who will stay versus the investors who will leave.”

Buffett's office confirmed the comments, CNBC said. Buffett is known for his disdain for investors and hedge fund owners who try to engineer a quick profit by splitting a company into pieces as a prelude to selling out.

Loeb manages Third Point, a $14 billion hedge fund, with Dow as its largest holding.

Liveris said he is “open to all ideas and to all shareholders” and plans to meet with Loeb. He said Dow has sold more than $10 billion in businesses over the past five years and plans to sell $4 billion to $5 billion more, amounting to “a remake of the company in a very big way.” The company also raised its dividend and is buying back its stock.

Berkshire became a Dow investor when it supplied $3 billion in 2008 toward the purchase of specialty chemical maker Rohm and Haas Co. of Philadelphia.

The Omaha World-Herald Co. is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Contact the writer: Steve Jordon

steve.jordon@owh.com    |   402-444-1080    |  

Steve covers banking, insurance, the economy and other topics, including Berkshire Hathaway, Mutual of Omaha and other businesses.

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