Warren Buffett

On this date in 1930, Warren Edward Buffett was born in Omaha, Neb., which is part of the reason he’s called the “Oracle of Omaha.” The other part is that he used savvy investment strategy to become a multibillionaire. His net worth in March 2011, according to Forbes magazine, was more than $50 billion, making him the world’s third-richest person. Buffett’s father, Harold, was a politician and businessman who had his own brokerage company.

Buffett was baptized as a Presbyterian, but religion didn’t take with him, according to biographer Roger Lowenstein in Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist (Doubleday, 1995): “Warren’s exploits were always based on numbers, which he trusted above all else. In contrast, he did not subscribe to his family’s religion. Even at a young age, he was too mathematical, and too logical, to make the leap of faith. He adopted his father’s ethical underpinnings, but not his belief in an unseen divinity.” According to philosopedia.org, “Asked in 1997 if he was a supernaturalist or a naturalist, a believer or a nonbeliever, Buffett responded to Warren Allen Smith on a postcard, ‘Agnostic.’ ”

Buffett attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business for two years and graduated at age 19 from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with a B.S. in business administration. He then enrolled in the Columbia Business School in New York City and earned an M.S. in economics. In 1952, he married Susan Thompson. They had three children, Susie, Howard and Peter. (They lived separately from 1977 when she moved to San Francisco to pursue a singing career until her death in 2004. She introduced him to Astrid Menks, his longtime domestic partner whom he married in 2006.)

One of the reasons Buffett went to Columbia was because Benjamin Graham, author of The Intelligent Investor, one of his favorite books on securities markets, taught there. Buffett would make good use of Graham’s principles of value investing to build his fortune and for a time worked for Graham. By 1962 he was a millionaire and started merging his partnerships and investing in Berkshire Hathaway, a textile manufacturing firm, buying shares for $7.60. He became a billionaire on paper in 1990, when Berkshire shares were $7,000. In July 2019, shares were worth $323,000 each. (That is not a typo.)

Though frugal in his personal life, Buffett has given away many millions, and in 2006 famously pledged to donate most of his wealth to five foundations, with 83 percent of it going to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Along with Bill Gates, he’s the driving force behind The Giving Pledge, a campaign to get the rich to donate to charity. For many years, he’s donated eBay auction proceeds from a lunch meeting. The 2010 winner, who stayed anonymous, paid $2.6 million to dine with Buffett.

PHOTO: Buffett speaking at the Kansas University School of Business in 2011; Mark Hirschey photo (cropped)CC BY 2.0

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