The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

Alice Schroeder

Language: English

Pages: 832

ISBN: 0553384619

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Here is THE book recounting the life and times of one of the most respected men in the world, Warren Buffett. The legendary Omaha investor has never written a memoir, but now he has allowed one writer, Alice Schroeder, unprecedented access to explore directly with him and with those closest to him his work, opinions, struggles, triumphs, follies, and wisdom. The result is the personally revealing and complete biography of the man known everywhere as “The Oracle of Omaha.”

Although the media track him constantly, Buffett himself has never told his full life story. His reality is private, especially by celebrity standards. Indeed, while the homespun persona that the public sees is true as far as it goes, it goes only so far. Warren Buffett is an array of paradoxes. He set out to prove that nice guys can finish first. Over the years he treated his investors as partners, acted as their steward, and championed honesty as an investor, CEO, board member, essayist, and speaker. At the same time he became the world’s richest man, all from the modest Omaha headquarters of his company Berkshire Hathaway. None of this fits the term “simple.”

When Alice Schroeder met Warren Buffett she was an insurance industry analyst and a gifted writer known for her keen perception and business acumen. Her writings on finance impressed him, and as she came to know him she realized that while much had been written on the subject of his investing style, no one had moved beyond that to explore his larger philosophy, which is bound up in a complex personality and the details of his life. Out of this came his decision to cooperate with her on the book about himself that he would never write.

Never before has Buffett spent countless hours responding to a writer’s questions, talking, giving complete access to his wife, children, friends, and business associates—opening his files, recalling his childhood. It was an act of courage, as The Snowball makes immensely clear. Being human, his own life, like most lives, has been a mix of strengths and frailties. Yet notable though his wealth may be, Buffett’s legacy will not be his ranking on the scorecard of wealth; it will be his principles and ideas that have enriched people’s lives. This book tells you why Warren Buffett is the most fascinating American success story of our time.

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the less energetic or the more fainthearted. Browne would call Buffett to let him know they had XYZ stock on offer at $5 a share. “Hmmm, $43/4 bid,” Buffett would say, without hesitation. This maneuver, Casting the Line, would fish out how hungry the seller was. After calling the client to see if he would take a lower price, Browne would call Buffett with the response: “Sorry. Can’t take less than five bucks.” “Unthinkable,” Buffett would answer. A few days later, Browne would call Buffett

family sent her off to Norfolk. The details of the Stahl family’s problems were rarely discussed in front of the children. Each adapted to Washington in his or her own way. Beautiful fifteen-year-old Doris felt like Dorothy, who had just left blackand-white Kansas and stepped into the Technicolor land of Oz. Her life was transformed. She became the belle of Fredericksburg and fell in love with the town.12 Leila began to treat her daughter as a social climber who had pretensions above her station,

when they were stopped by a cop, Warren kept “talking and talking and talking” until he wiggled their way out of a ticket.22 They put the Rolls in the garage underneath the Buffett house and started the motor up. The house immediately filled with acrid smoke, so they pulled it back out and up the steep driveway onto the street. They worked on it Saturday after Saturday. “Danly did all the work,” according to Doris, tinkering with the pipes and doing the welding, “and Warren watched admiringly and

he narrowed it down to a handful of stocks worth even more careful study, then concentrated his money on what he considered the best bets. He was willing to put most of his eggs in one basket, as he had done with GEICO. By that time, however, he had sold his GEICO shares, because he never seemed to have enough money to invest. Every decision had an opportunity cost—he had to compare each investing opportunity with the next best one. As much as he liked GEICO, he had made the wrenching decision to

at Sun Valley in 1999 was like preaching chastity in a house of ill repute. The speech might rivet the audience to its chairs, but that didn’t mean that they would go forth and abstain. Yet some thought they were hearing something important. “This is great; it’s the basic tutorial on the stock market, all in one lesson,” thought Gates.27 The money managers, many of whom were hunting for cheaper stocks, found it comforting and even cathartic. Buffett waved a book in the air. “This book was the

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