Warren Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist

This week I’m reading Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist. Buffett’s more popular biography is Snowball. But its 1,000 pages. And so I wanted to start with a 500 page biography first so I don’t lose interest.

Buffett’s an interesting person. Before reading this book I thought he was an amazing guy. He still is, I think. But like anyone, he has weaknesses, specifically with how he treated his family. He was singularly focused on making money (in honest ways), therefore he wasn’t a great husband and father.

In this post I’ll make a running list of all the interesting things that I’m learning about him:

American Express

  • Disney: In the 60’s he bought ~5% of Disney for only $4m. Buffett was in movie theater and thought “man, I’d love to get a cut of each person’s ticket revenue.” He actually walked around their theme park to understand the business.
  • Hands-on: He was super hands-on with the businesses he invested in. Literally. Once a colleague saw him walking around NYC. Apparently, Buffet was trying to measure the radius of a certain office building via pacing around it. He was preparing to make an investment and was using the measurements to help him decide (I can’t remember the exact deal – must’ve been real estate related?). Or he’d just walk into the offices of companies he wanted to invest in, and try to find employees to answer his questions.
  • He was independent: So many stories about how we did things his way, regardless of others. Like setting up vending machines as a kid instead of playing with other kids. Or reading certain books or not wanting to work for his family’s store. Or how he invested. Others were trading stocks quickly. He didn’t want to do that. He told his investors they could only talk to him once a year. If they broke that, he fired them. Stuck to his guns.
  • He was a genius: This needs to be emphasized more. Yes, he has this everyday-guy sort of Midwest vibe. But he was a genius. That, along with figuring out he loved investing at a young age and following his passion, is why he’s successful. He was born smarter than everyone else…50% of why he’s successful.
  • He was a stock picker at first: Read annual reports and invested small-ish sums into public companies. But later, he bought big chunks of companies, which is where it seems most of his money came from (I’m still early in the book!).

I’ll keep adding more as I read…

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