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Alice Schroeder's new chapter: THE CRISIS: The decline of Berkshire Hathaway's s


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From Alice Schroeder's new chapter: THE CRISIS: The decline of Berkshire Hathaway's stock from Triple-A status

 

Throughout, Buffett became an even more frequent presence on CNBC and other networks. He filled the role of America's statesman and father figure during the financial crisis, but he had also fallen into the trap of competing for attention instead of trusting that his sterling record would bring it to him. "Dignity, Warren, dignity," counseled one of his friends—but Buffett had never wanted to be dignified; he had never minded looking silly if it would get people to pay attention to him. He was a performer and a showman, and now he feared the show might end. He would keep on giving as many performances as possible while there was time. And indeed, his profile grew and grew in proportion to how often he appeared on the magic medium of television.

 

Read more http://myinvestingnotebook.blogspot.com/2009/11/crisis-decline-of-berkshire-hathaways.html

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I would be interested in the opinion of board members about which books or resources (besides his annual letters) give the most clear and useful information from an investors perspective of Warren and His investing.

 

I have read buffet the making of an American Capitalist and have started to read Snowball.

 

How would you rate the different books on Warren and which ones are worth reading?

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Lowenstein's Buffett (the making of an american capitalist) is it. I have all kind of reservations about this woman Alice Schroeder; although all material offers some value.

It is very likely that if Buffett had to choose a biographer again, he would pick someone else; not because schroeder is trying to gain publicity (which she is), but it looks like her judgement is often subpar to put it mildly.

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Lowenstein's  doesnt seem like he is trying to make Buffett into something. He just seems to give you the raw product. I dont know why Buffett didnt pick him, I have read 3 of his books and all of them are excellent. I wish I had shorted GM after reading his last book, that short idea was easily worth the reading time.

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Re - why choose Alice Schroeder to write a Buffett-assisted biography: My guess is that he was impressed with Schroeder's prior good analysis of Berkshire, and was hoping for more of an investment-methodology book rather than a personalities story-telling such as Lowenstein's (despite its excellence).  Someone who understands the company and can present the subtleties of his "painting".  So he gave lots of access.  It didn't work out as Schroeder was seduced by the endorsed access to write a personalities book and dish lots of insider anecdotes. 

 

Too bad.  But there will be other biographies, even ones which do a good job of explaining the company's structure and Buffett's methodologies.  One subject-assisted biography is enough, I would imagine is Mr Buffett's take on the experience.

 

For reading ... Robert Miles' book, "The Warren Buffett CEO" might be of interest.  And there's "Of Permanent Value" by Andy Kilpatrick.

 

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Actually, if you can get past Schroeder's first 120 pages or so in the Snowball, full of unnecessary innuendo and crap about Buffett's supposedly dysfunctional family, then it becomes quite an extraordinary book on Buffett...easily one of the best.  I don't like all her marketing right now, but some parts of that book are absolutely engrossing!  Cheers! 

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I'm one of the few on this board who really liked The Snowball. I wouldn't have been attracted to a book that focused on Warren's "methodology"--which I suspect is like Jeet Kune Do's "techniques"--because most of his investment career is a matter of public record.

 

If I didn't know anything about the author, I would have guessed that a female friend of Warren's wrote the book. Especially when talking about Susie Buffett, there is a kind of merciless judgement that I associate with one woman evaluating another.

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I thought Snowball was quite good.  Because she had access to the details of his early business it was by far the most interesting and detailed of all the biographies I have read.  Some of the family stuff is a bit dreary.

 

A close second was Lowenstein.  He would have done a better job if he had access.  But WEB obviously has a weakness for attractive young women which is not a bad thing....

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Snowball had some new packets of info, but I generally didn't find it quite upto the mark. Anyways, it was a total waste of a great opportunity to understand the nuances of his investments. Buffet is a man of habits, and she just kept repeating that again and again (motherly women, money obsession, showman). I read about buffet to learn about investments, business and values, not his quirks !!

 

I would have personally liked if she just took 20-30 of investments he made and didnt make, and the detailed rationale for the same from his own mouth. What were the alternate scenarios he saw, how did he evaluate the management, how did he look at risk from individual stock as well as portfolio approach? Why Coke and not Pepsi? Also, he has made great market calls (1969, 1974, 1979, 1999, 2008) - what all parameters he looked at. 

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Guest dealraker

I really just don't get it at all.  Seems to me most grown-ups would instantly know that all humans are complex and thus "daddy wasn't perfect."  Yet the OBSESSION with Buffett's human traits are extreme while no one, including Alice, truly focuses on the partiulars of how he made his money.  Munger and Buffett mention this from time to time.  This site too has become much of a "find something about Buffett to assault."  Nope, daddy wasn't perfect and daddy didn't tell you to buy the stock 10 years ago at $80,000 either.  He just rand the business since then and he's doubled investments per share and made 7 times gains in the operating earnings- all the while disappointing so many so devastatingly.

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As Munger says, you can learn by collecting inanities. This way you build your mental models on human nature and the way the world works. There are many such examples in this world and you collect them as you go. If you observe and keep a collection of those, you will do fine.

 

The poor charlies almanac was terrific as it brought together so many disparate things together.

 

Collecting inane stories is interesting in itself. The Rudy Guliani and his wife's story is interesting. As is Elliot Spitzer. The thing I got from snowball was the thing about Larry King. I think Buffett judged him right, never been impressed with his interviews. Buffett experiment with Dale Carnegie principles in high school is interesting as was his firing of his secretary the first day.

 

cheers!

Shalab

 

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Rabbit's mention of "Jeet Kune Do" sent me to Wikipedia - very interesting - read it yourself for more than I'll copy to here.  Bruce Lee's approach to martial arts.  And readily transposed to investing or other pursuits.  Here is a quote from Bruce Lee which gives the flavour.   Something that Warren Buffett might have said about investing, with some changes of a few nouns.

 

"I have not invented a 'new style', composite, modified or otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from 'this' method or 'that' method.  On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns or molds.  Remember that Jeet Kune Do is merely a name used, a mirror in which to see 'ourselves' ... Jeet Kune Do is not an organized institution that one can be a member of.  Either you understand or you don't, and that is that.  There is no mystery about my style.  My movements are simple, direct and non-classical.  The extraordinary part of it lies in its simplicity.  Every movement in Jeet Kune-Do is being so of itself.  There is nothing artificial about it.  I always believe that the easy way is the right way.  Jeet Kune-Do is simply the direct expression of one's feelings with the minimum of movements and energy.  The close to the true way of Kung Fu, the less wastage of expression there is.  Finally, a Jeet Kune Do man who says Jeet Kune Do is exclusively Jeet Kune Do is simply not with it.  He is still hung up on his self-closing resistance, in this case anchored down to reactionary pattern, and naturally is still bound by another modified pattern and can move within its limits.  He has not digested the simple fact that truth exists outside all molds; pattern and awareness is never exclusive.  Again let me remind you Jeet Kune Do is just a name used, a boat to get one across, and once across it is to be discarded and not to be carried on one's back."

 

Now I am most certainly not a physical artist, and very far from being an investing artist - but these words are very liberating.  And I am a bit of a political fighter, and Mr Lee's words are worth consideration in that way as well.  Next stop ... the public library!  Many thanks to Rabbit for a hint.

 

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This woman may have no idea what she's talking about.  It is becoming a sad spectacle.

 

Once it became clear to her that Buffett was upset about some of the details in the biography (my guess is that the details about his relationship with -- and depiction of -- his dead wife were too much to bear), it seems to me that she should have kept quiet for a bit and hoped for Buffett's hurt feelings to subside.  My guess is that would have happened with a bit of time.  (It's only natural for a person whose life if taken apart in such detail to feel a bit of antipathy in this situation.  But, Buffett is a big person and he would have come around -- at least, that's my guess.)

 

Then, she could have kept her credibility.  I mean, outside of us investors, no one would have ever heard of her had Buffett not granted her such unfettered access. 

 

Her behavior (and apparent cluelessness about the basics of Berkshire and Buffett's actions) is making me question much of what she wrote in "Snowball"...what a disappointment.

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She's getting as much press as Doug Kass or Whitney Tilson these days when it comes to Berkshire and Buffett.  I think it's kind of crass and naturally self-serving, but hey Buffett created the beast in the first place by giving her all access. 

 

Didn't anyone at Berkshire see this possibly coming?  They run their businesses thinking about the worst possible outcomes, yet Buffett didn't think giving this woman more access than anyone else could backfire?  His original intention of his annual shareholder's letters being his legacy and biography was the best and most fitting idea.  Cheers!

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She was probably a wrong pick when she made her intentions clear. I remember reading a quote from before the book was written, saying that she wanted to focus on Buffett "the person", not much on Buffett the capital allocator.

 

Buffett picked her thinking she is good in analyzing insurance companies and is a better in writing about his compounding machine. Both had different agendas. Shroeder also quit her job and focused full time on this, so her opportunity costs were high. No wonder when Buffett refused to put his weight to influence the sales, she had to resort to these.

 

At this time, when Buffett is standing tall, it is a sad spectacle to see her do these things.

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Guest longinvestor

She's getting as much press as Doug Kass or Whitney Tilson these days when it comes to Berkshire and Buffett.  I think it's kind of crass and naturally self-serving, but hey Buffett created the beast in the first place by giving her all access. 

 

Didn't anyone at Berkshire see this possibly coming?  They run their businesses thinking about the worst possible outcomes, yet Buffett didn't think giving this woman more access than anyone else could backfire?  His original intention of his annual shareholder's letters being his legacy and biography was the best and most fitting idea.  Cheers!

 

Bad press about Buffett has had zero impact on investor's success over the long term. In fact any temporary impact is gleefully welcomed by those who routinely ignore the media as advised by the master.

 

"Dogs barking at the Sun" does not change a thing in life on the planet. (Indian saying)

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