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Am I Bitter?


Parsad
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If you read one of Alice Schroeder's blog posts (January 23rd, "Am I Bitter?"), you would think she was one of Tiger Wood's spurned mistresses!  This woman really should try and keep a lower profile...and for God's sake, she should stop writing that blog.  I truly believe she wants to put Buffett in diapers and bottle feed him.  Cheers!

 

http://www.aliceschroeder.com/passages

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It's funny, you guys are usually so rational when it comes to investing, but yet when Warren Buffett is mentioned, that rationality just goes straight out the door and you go into "Hero-Worship" mode. What's even worse, is that when there is criticism, it's shouted down, after all, who knows better than the "Greatest Investor of All-Time"?

 

If you ask me, there's a lot of great material on her blog, and you guys would be for the worst if you didn't read it. For example, if you look at the NetJets posts, there's a huge amount of information and analysis that's never been written before. I know Buffett is a long-term investor, but even on that scale, NetJets has been an awful investment and all the warning signs were there from the outset. If it was so clear, why did he do it then?  It has to be ego.

 

I don't agree with everything she's written, but I think it would be foolish to dismiss her as a hysterical woman after she has had the personal access that you guys could only dream of.

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speak for yourself (or others).  :)

 

I've always liked how she has unveiled the truth about Buffett's methods; that he has to work extremely hard, like 'a demon' to get good returns, reading all day ... and that it doesn't come naturally and easily. makes me work harder.

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Guest dealraker

Parsad,

 

I've been to some Berk annual meetings and actually started sort of following him close to 20 years ago.  I've held the stock for about 15 years, never adding or subtracting.  What I find interesting is the focus on Buffett's life outside how he made/makes money and Charlie Munger has mentioned that a couple of time along the say- saying something like "so few investigate the method of his success" and so forth.

 

I particularly like trying to train myself towards Buffett/Munger models of investment and I'm terribly interested in that while not at all interested in his private live as Schroeder seem hyper obsessed with.  Seems to me many of the Internet web sites that mention being either Buffett-like or "value focused" end up being filled with those that (to me) seem simply envious of Warren Buffett and they bring out all the (later to be proven wrong generally) "Buffett is like a baby and has lost it" posters.

 

I have asked Schroeder many questions about Buffett's money making and all she responds to is psychology about his personal life.

 

Anyone getting close to me would find much of the same except worse.

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Checking out Schroeder's bio on Wiki:  She has had two other controversies besides her lese majeste with Warren.  She refused to change her rating on Chubb in 2002 to conform to the ratings of other analysts, despite great pressure from First Call.  She reported last year that Goldman Sachs bigwigs had taken out pistol permits during the financial crisis to their displeasure.  She was also the lead analyst involved in rewriting the FASB standards strengthening the standards for how insurance cos account for long tail reserving.  All in all, she appears to have had a good reputation until she spilled the beans -- per WEB's advance instructions-- about his personal life.

 

Time for Alice and Warren to kiss and make up?  :)

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It's funny, you guys are usually so rational when it comes to investing, but yet when Warren Buffett is mentioned, that rationality just goes straight out the door and you go into "Hero-Worship" mode. What's even worse, is that when there is criticism, it's shouted down, after all, who knows better than the "Greatest Investor of All-Time"?

 

Balling, it has nothing to do with Buffett.  She's the one who writes, discusses the book, and comments on Buffett's demeanor towards her.  Have you heard Buffett say anything?

 

She wrote a book on Buffett that exposes all his strengths and weaknesses.  She knew she could alienate him by writing everything and she did so.  I liked her book, at least after the first 100 pages, but she knew what she was getting into.  At the same time, she's garnered untold fame and fortune from doing so.  

 

Now, the subject of her book is displeased with certain portions that were very personal to him.  My problem is why does she always address any problem Buffett has about something by saying he's needy?  Has Buffett said anything at all about the book or Schroeder in public?  Nothing, not one iota.  If he's so needy, don't you think he would have just lashed out at the book or its author at some point to fulfill his needy emotional side?  It's in check...a professional...something Schroeder should show a bit more of.  Cheers!

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I gotta take Schroeder's side in this one.  Her task was to write a biography on Buffett, not to write about his investing process.  Yes, she revealed a side to Buffett most of us were unaware of, and some may not have wanted to know.  I personally found it interesting.  Buffett is clearly one of the greatest investors in history, but not one of the greatest people.  I admire his investing approach and his emphasis on integrity in business.  His personal life, passivity on boards, and fathering skills I do not.  I believe her blog is quite informative.  I also think she hits the nail on the head in the post.  Her comments on the difficulty of discussing Buffet are spot on:

 

"For years, I have read and listened to people talk about Warren Buffett in a way that is frustrating. One the one hand, you have a cadre of people who appear to be envious and who slam everything the man does as if it were either for some evil purpose (usually having to do with taxes) or, "Buffett doesn't get it," as if they have to feel intellectually superior to him. On the other hand, you have a group of people who uncritically assume that he is perfect and everything he does is unassailably correct. This latter group can be extremely frustrating to deal with because their views are internally inconsistent."

 

She is striving for a full picture of the man.  It is refreshing in my opinion.  

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I will preface this with saying that I probably missed something along the way.

 

How do we know that Buffett is bitter?  Why are we making this assumption if we don't? 

 

Finally, if he is angry at her for publishing something about his personal life that he wishes she hadn't, why did he expose her to the information?!  If it was her inaccurate portrayal of something he intended to expose her to, why didn't he read the book before it was published?

 

I'm only asking these questions because I don't understand where people have gotten the information that Buffett is bitter and that he certainly had it in his power to edit/censor anything that he didn't like if he chose to do so, no?

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Tim, I fully agree with your comments.  My question, and the question that I think alot of the current critics have, is why all the interviews constantly discussing Buffett's state of mind or emotional needs?  It's clearly laid out in the book, and then in subsequent articles and interviews.  But it seems as though it's become the primary framework for many of the discussions she has now.

 

Also, Schroeder the analyst had a very different view of Buffett when she was on the outside.  Could it be that depending on what relationship you have with Buffett, your perspective of the man will be very different...not unlike a husband or wife's perspective of their spouse, relative to the perspective of a co-worker or employee.  Thus naturally you will have people who are critical of either perspective.  Buffett sounds exactly like any other individual I know...they have their public life and they have their private life...they have successes and they have failures in both parts of that life.  Cheers!

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There is a new way to sell books nowadays. It creates a longer tail for your works. You write a book and then you blog and tweet and get on cable tv so as to stay in the public eye. when they see you they google you and find your web site and find out you've written a book. the more controversial you can be the more traffic comes to you and more eyeballs to see that you have a book. Jeff Matthews was perhaps even more calculating about his book. He showed absolutely no interest in anything Berkshire or Buffett related but is a good writer. What better way to have a long tail as an author than to become an expert at Berkshire Hathaway and Buffett?

 

You hit on a very good point Peter.  I always wonder how all these folks write books on investment analysis or building the next Berkshire Hathaway without ever having done so.  Buffett seems like the only qualified person to write a book on such a thing.  Just like Prem would be the guy to write a book on how to build the next Fairfax Financial. 

 

I don't mind Alice's book, because she didn't take that stance...she wrote a book about Buffett the person.  I really like Andy's book because he wrote it solely on the history of Buffett and Berkshire.  Poor Charlie's Alamanack also is basically an ode to Munger.  They aren't purporting to be anything more than they are.  But there are alot of books floating around these days that are written by people who haven't got a clue what they are talking about...throw in the word Buffett, Berkshire, value investing or the sort, and you've got a nice little cash cow going and something to try to give yourself some credibility.  It's a whole industry now...Buffett should try and buy it!  Cheers!

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But he did, and continues to do so... in his own (very powerful) way.

 

Yes, she found a few peanuts with their shells on in her Peanut Buster Parfait, and her Geico premiums were eerily higher this year.   ;D  

 

Really, why would Buffett risk reputation to get back at Schroeder?  I would guess the negative stuff he's doing is that he's probably told all the people he knows not to talk to her about him, his family or Berkshire.  It was his mistake in the beginning to grant her that access, and now he's doing what he can to prevent it from getting worse or ever happening again.  Cheers!  

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Writing and blogging about Buffett the person, and not just Buffett the investor appeals to a much wider audience of readers.  I mean how many people outside of the investing community want to hear about how great of an investment Mid-Continent Tab Card Company was?  I wish it was focused solely on examples like that from Buffett's early trading years.  But I just can't see my wife (a non-investor) reading a book like that, but she would probably read the book the way it was written by Schroeder.

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I will preface this with saying that I probably missed something along the way.

 

How do we know that Buffett is bitter?  Why are we making this assumption if we don't?  

 

Finally, if he is angry at her for publishing something about his personal life that he wishes she hadn't, why did he expose her to the information?!  If it was her inaccurate portrayal of something he intended to expose her to, why didn't he read the book before it was published?

 

I'm only asking these questions because I don't understand where people have gotten the information that Buffett is bitter and that he certainly had it in his power to edit/censor anything that he didn't like if he chose to do so, no?

 

 

I think you're right on.  Who says Warren is bitter?  Not Warren.

 

Imagine that you are a woman who has spent 1500 hours of face to face conversation with a man, discussing at times the most intimate details not only of his life, but the lives of all his friends and family members.  He says to tell it all like it is.  "Always use the less flattering version when you write my biography".  He knows some of his story will seem tawdry, but he wants the definitive work on his life to be the whole truth.  

 

What a man!  I couldn't do that.  

 

He knows that he won't react well to criticism; so he doesn't even read the final manuscript before it's published.  When it goes on sale, the smelly stuff hits the fan and gets all over his wife, his daughter, his sons and their families.  They say, "Warren, don't have anything to do with that hateful woman."  The result:  "Sorry, Ms. Schroeder, Warren's not available.  He can't take your call.  ... No, I'm sorry, he can't take your call next week either.  Goodby".

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He knows that he won't react well to criticism, so he doesn't even read the final manuscript before it's published.  When it goes on sale the smelly stuff hits the fan and gets all over his wife, his daughter, his sons and their families.  They say "Warren, don't have any thing to do with that hateful woman."  The result:  "Sorry, Ms Schroeder, Warren's not available.  He can't take your call.  ... No, I'm sorry, he can't take your call next week either.  Goodby".

 

Exactly!  I think the stuff that probably impacted Warren wasn't the stuff about himself.  It was the way his family was portrayed, and so he decided to stem the pain that he had indirectly inflicted upon them by giving Alice full access.  Buffett was fair game in the biography...I don't think his family was.  Cheers!

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Buffett appears to want to be much more in the public eye these days. Do a google search for how much he is on CNBC etc with lengthy interviews. Whether he likes it or not he is now like a star athlete. He basks in the spotlight (otherwise, why is he there so much... and, please, don't say he is doing this to save capitalism). He should not be surprised that many people (with too much free time) now have become interested in every aspect of his personal life. Schroeder appears to me to simply be filling a need. God bless America; remember, Buffett loves his country :-) 

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I think its an excellent book.  I have reread sections on some of the deals particularly the stuff from when he worked for Ben up until the time he became well known. 

 

The personal stuff was interesting and showed what Buffett is like as a person.  Her book didn't change my opinion of him one bit.  He is basically a pretty good person doing the best he can, warts and all.  As for her capitalizing off of this - Would a man who sells candy and shoes at his annual meeting have any problem with that?

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There were some personal things regarding other people which I reacted quite a bit towards; Charlie making a fool of himself (at least in Alice's opinion) speaking at his birthday party, Susan using Astrid to control Buffett and some other things which I don't remember at the moment. Maybe that is unavoidable to some extent when writing a biography , I don't know. Though I do think far better of Buffett after reading the book. And the book itself, though clearly not written by a very skilled pen, is at least competent and well researched.

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In her blog, she says she will be sharing more info on Buffett's buys. She also says it will need a community to analyze the buys. I think both are good points which will get her a following. I think this move is better than the tired psychological analysis.

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Writing and blogging about Buffett the person, and not just Buffett the investor appeals to a much wider audience of readers.

 

How can you determine the sex of a fly?

 

Members of both sex talk about Warren Buffett. So, how?

 

The males are on the can of beer talking mostly about Warren Buffett the investor.

The females are on the phone talking mostly about his private life  ::)

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Writing and blogging about Buffett the person, and not just Buffett the investor appeals to a much wider audience of readers.

 

How can you determine the sex of a fly?

 

Members of both sex talk about Warren Buffett. So, how?

 

The males are on the can of beer talking mostly about Warren Buffett the investor.

The females are on the phone talking mostly about his private life  ::)

 

 

" Enquiring minds want to know.". :)

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