Billionaire investor Warren Buffett talked about his financial successes and offered advice to business students at the Marvin Center Continental Ballroom Thursday.
After brief introductions by MBA Association members and School of Business and Public Management Dean Susan Phillips, Buffett began, “I’m here with a short sermon but I’d much rather hear your thoughts. So throw fastballs at my head. I’m ready.”
Buffett, who served as a financial consultant to California Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger and President Clinton, told the 225 members of the audience to cherish their lives and make the most of them.
“Look, you only have one life,” he said. “What you do with it now will determine the rest of your years.”
Dubbed the “Oracle of Omaha,” Buffett has an estimated wealth of $35 billion and is the second richest man in the world. Heralded for his modesty, Buffett still lives in a gray stucco house he bought for $31,500 in 1956.
He has headed Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which sells everything from insurance to candy, since 1965. He is also a world-renowned investor and owns stock in several hundred companies.
“Some guys chase girls around their whole life. I chase companies,” Buffett said.
The event, sponsored by the GW MBA Association, also featured an hour-long question-and-answer session. An audience member asked Buffett how long he would stay on as the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
“Well, I’m only leaving if I die…and even then I’ve supplied my managers with Ouija boards so I can still run it,” the 73-year-old quipped.
Buffett also talked about his role as financial adviser to Schwarznegger during the recall election.
“Well, I bench 400 pounds, you know,” Buffett told the crowd. “And all important politicians, like Saddam in Iraq, have doubles. So, Arnold looked around, saw my strength and now I’m his double.”
“In all seriousness, I think he’ll do great,” Buffett continued. “He’s proven he can talk to people and he’s very financially smart.”
Buffett was asked about what he thought were the best and worst decisions he has made.
“I’d say my best decision was who I chose to be my role models in life,” Buffett said. “Basically, if you choose good role models as a child, you’ll be fine.”
“My worst decisionS have been the opportunities I have missed, not necessarily things I have done that didn’t turn out right,” he continued. “For example, I once went on a vacation with (Microsoft Chairman) Bill Gates, a good friend of mine. We went to Alaska and ended up in Yellowstone.”
“I kept getting mad because my phone wouldn’t work in these places, and because of that, I missed out on an important deal. I could have made eight billion dollars,” he said.
Asked how he defined success, the financial guru responded, “Do people love you? I know people in life with so many degrees and so much money, but no one loves them. They’re not successful.”
Buffett then talked about a friend of his who was in the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust.
“When she meets someone, she asks herself, ‘Would this person hide me?'” he said. “That is how she defined who loved her – by who would hide her. My Polish friend has many people who would hide her. And so, I consider her a success.” o
This article appeared in the November 17, 2003 issue of the Hatchet.