Investment guru finds enrichment guiding students
By Josh Funk
By Josh Funk
OMAHA, Neb. — Warren Buffett is known for shrewd financial deals, but the world's second-richest man also invests some of his time to help guide business students.
Buffett's Berkshire-Hathaway Inc. made an average of $23.4 million a day in 2005, yet he plans to spend the better part of 20 days this year answering questions and offering advice based on decades of stunningly successful experience.
It's time the Oracle of Omaha thoroughly enjoys.
A group of about 35 University of Tennessee students recently spent four hours with Buffett between the question-and-answer session at his offices and lunch at Gorat's — Buffett's favorite steak house in Omaha.
"I was surprised at how personable he is," said senior finance major Laura Cole, who got to sit near Buffett for a while at lunch. "And he talked about communications skills being the most important skill."
Buffett also paid for lunch for the Tennessee students and for about 90 University of Iowa students who met with him at the same time.
Tennessee student Chandler Summar said he was surprised Buffett was willing to pose for countless pictures and wasn't anxious about his schedule.
"He said for the first job, don't look for the money," Summar said. "Look for something you love, and if you're good, the money will come."
At least one group from the University of Kansas has tried to make the time profitable — literally — for the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
KU professor Mark Hirschey has turned the Buffett visits into the culmination of the security analysis class he teaches, and his students come to Omaha prepared to pitch companies that Berkshire Hathaway might buy.
"He is a very kind and generous person, and he's all about ideas," said Hirschey, who plans to bring a group of his students to Berkshire's annual meeting in Omaha on May 6.
The Kansas students are trying to outdo a University of Tennessee class that gave Buffett a signed copy of self-made billionaire Jim Clayton's autobiography that led to Berkshire's $1.7 billion purchase of Clayton Homes, which makes manufactured housing.
"No self-respecting Jayhawk is going to sit idly by and let some Tennessee Volunteers get away with this," Hirschey said in the course syllabus.
Buffett mentioned the Tennessee group in his 2003 letter to Berkshire shareholders, spurring Hirschey and other professors and students to arrange their own visits. And those Tennessee students each received a Class B share of Berkshire Hathaway stock as a reward, and their professor, Al Auxier, received a Class A share. In trading on the New York Stock Exchange Friday, Class B shares closed at $2,972 and Class A shares closed at $89,200.
Debbie Bosanek, Buffett's assistant, said she had scheduled 35 of these meetings for this school year spread over 19 or 20 days. About 2,000 students will visit Buffett this year.