Warren Buffett gave some business-related praise to Le-Bron James, who is starting a new National Basketball Association season after winning his first championship and has a goal of becoming a fellow billionaire.
“You have to get to know him,” Buffett told the Miami Herald. “LeBron's not initially really talkative. He's savvy. He's smart about financial matters. It's amazing to me the maturity he exhibits. I know that if I had been famous at that age, I would have had trouble keeping my feet on the ground.”
Buffett, 82, and James, 27, have been friends since 2006, and Buffett “defeated” James in a one-on-one basketball contest videotaped for the 2007 shareholders meeting of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the Omaha-based investment company Buffett heads.
The two attended a CEO investment conference a few years ago. “People were more interested in meeting him than in meeting me,” Buffett told the Herald. “He doesn't need me to introduce him, that's for sure.”
The paper estimated James' annual income at $53 million, mostly from endorsements at $1 million a year for each five-year agreement with products such as Nike, Coca-Cola, Samsung and McDonald's. That compares with Buffett's 2010 income of $62 million.
Buffett cousin dies
Buffett's cousin George Buffett, a candy maker and former legislator who was featured in a 2011 World-Herald story, died of congestive heart failure last week at age 83, the Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal reported.
He told The World-Herald in September 2011 that he focused on political honesty and that he was glad to have started a successful business, independent of his investment in Berkshire. “I'm doing it my own way,” he said.
His family lived in Omaha briefly when he was a child, and he attended third grade at Beals Elementary School before they moved to Albuquerque.
He founded Buffett's Candies retail and mail-order candy company in 1956, starting with machines that made snow cones and cotton candy and turning a 25-foot-tall candy cane outside his store into an Albuquerque landmark. His family still operates the business.
Buffett was a Republican who served 24 years in the New Mexico House of Representatives, through 2002. Survivors include his wife of 49 years, Jeanette; children George II, John and Patricia; and five grandchildren.
George and Warren knew each other as children because their fathers were brothers.
George was known nationally by candy makers as an expert in producing fine chocolates in a high desert environment and specialty candies such as pi๑on nut brittle.
Managing by not
Warren Buffett manages by not managing.
That's what his Texas executives told a chamber of commerce breakfast last week, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
CEOs from Berkshire's BNSF Railway, Justin Boots, Acme Brick and TTI, an electronics distributor, said Buffett leaves day-to-day decisions to the companies.
“I would describe it as very strange and almost bizarre the way he manages, because he doesn't manage,” said railroad CEO Matthew Rose, although Buffett also pays attention to details.
Acme CEO Dennis Knautz said he was amazed that Buffett knew Acme's production rate, pricing and volume “off the top of his head” during a recent CNBC interview. And Buffett also showed his decisiveness in 2005 when he vetoed a planned new brick plant by Acme.
The company's executives had spent six months making a detailed plan, Knautz recounted. “He said, 'You know what? I understand what you're doing and can see all the work that you've put into this project ... but I just don't think housing is going to continue at this level for a long, long period.' And he was right. That was right before the collapse in housing.”
In 2006, TTI CEO Paul Andrews said, he sat with Buffett on a couch in his Omaha office and discussed being acquired. “I think what he's doing is sizing you up as a person versus all the numbers,” Andrews said. “Then he looked at me and he said, 'OK, let's go do this. Let's get a hamburger.' And that was it. It took probably, at the most, 40 minutes.”
Justin's CEO Randy Watson said he was apprehensive about a yearly budget proposal he sent to Buffett, but when Buffett called he had another concern: “So what are you doing next year at the shareholders meeting?” Justin's Western-themed displays have been a big attraction at the meeting.
Tom Searcy and Henry De- Vries have concocted a book called “How to Close a Deal Like Warren Buffett” (McGraw-Hill, 222 pages, $22) by expanding on Buffett's comments and practices about acquisitions.
Searcy is a business consultant who has written other books on sales, and DeVries teaches business at the University of California at San Diego.
They recommend buying Berkshire Hathaway stock and attending the company's annual shareholders meeting in Omaha to get a “crash course in business excellence.”
After attending themselves and meeting some Berkshire executives, they wrote:
“They are on fire, accessible, warm, and friendly. They seek and serve their customers and shareholders with genuine interest.”
As for Buffett, they said he's the guy to watch when it comes to closing big deals. “The man knows how to talk about money when he's making deals. ... Follow his lead and you will close more business.”
The book's chapters start with “Warren Way” quotes and add case studies, tips and commentary. Among the Buffett quotes and lessons cited:
Plan for rough paths ahead: “The roads of business are riddled with potholes; a plan that requires dodging them all is a plan for disaster.”
Choose quality: “It's far better to own a portion of the Hope diamond than 100 percent of a rhinestone.”
Research deals carefully: “The most important thing to me is figuring out how big a moat there is around the business. What I love, of course, is a big castle and a big moat with piranhas and crocodiles.”
The Omaha World-Herald Co. is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
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