The Sage of Omaha
Warren Buffett carries many a title around with him – The Wizard of Omaha, the Oracle and the Sage of Omaha, to name just a few – and one wonders if this is great PR or adulatory terms laid at his door by his peers. As he is one of the richest men on the planet, we have to incline towards the latter, and it is therefore not surprising that he has the ear of Presidents, world leaders and blue-chip CEO’s from every corner of the globe. The surprising thing is that, even with the ever-changing market conditions, the march of technology and the incredible pace of world change, Warren Buffett at 84 is no less respected, admired and sought after than when he started.
Buffett is a business magnate, philanthropist and the most successful (serial) investor of the 20th century. He is the Chairman and majority shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway and is currently ranked as the third wealthiest person in the world. Yet, despite his vast wealth, he lives a remarkably frugal life and has vowed to give away 99% of his wealth to philanthropic causes before he shuffles off this mortal coil. He has joined with Bill Gates and many others to donate their cash to the Gates Foundation in his will, and one can only imagine what his children think of this, despite the remaining 1% being more than most of us mere mortals will ever see in a lifetime.
Born in 1930 to US Congressman Howard Buffett, it was remarked at a very young age that Warren seemed adept and unusually interested in money. His 1947 yearbook entry noted that he “likes math; a future stockbroker”.
Like so many self-made men of his generation, he demonstrated remarkable savvy at a young age. At school, he sold chewing gum at a 15% markup; he went door to door selling magazines, purchased a £25 pinball machine which he then rented to a diner, and within a few months he had eight of them at various locations around the town paying him rent. He also showed a great deal of honesty and adherence to the rules: on his first income tax return in 1944, for instance, he took a $35 reduction for the use of his bicycle on his paper round.