Longtime Berkshire Hathaway Inc. shareholder Michael Assael has been an admirer of Warren Buffett's since the early 1990s, when Buffett stepped in to straighten out the Salomon Brothers Inc. investment bank.
Assael, an attorney and CPA in New York City, was inspired to create some Andy Warhol-style “pop” art of his financial hero, using photocopies and watercolors to spiff up a photo of Buffett.
“I was impressed that he showed us that Dodge Street has more common sense than Wall Street,” said Assael, who regularly attends the annual Berkshire shareholders meeting in Omaha hosted by Buffett, the chairman and CEO.
Some of the 15 images include some Buffett quotations, such as:
“A horse that can count to 10 is a remarkable horse, not a remarkable mathematician.”
“As happens in Wall Street all too often, what the wise do in the beginning, the fools do in the end.”
Or, “Mark Twain's cat: Having sat on a hot stove, it never did so again — but it never sat on a cold stove, either.”
Assael is keeping the artwork at home but is happy to show some samples.
He was featured in a World-Herald article in 1993 that said he was carrying a New York license plate reading “100 BRK” and a stack of investment books autographed by Buffett. That year, he was one of about 2,200 shareholders at the meeting. Attendance has since grown to about 35,000 a year.
So far, he said, his Berkshire shares have gained more value than his artwork.
What combines Buffett's love of bridge and horse racing?
Poker, of course, Forbes magazine reported.
It's natural that Buffett would enjoy a poker tournament sponsored by a Berkshire company. The NetJets Poker Invitational in Las Vegas is open to people who own fractional shares of the private airline fleet. They compete for $500,000 in prizes or, for the top prize, 10 hours' flying time in a Bombardier Global 5000 jet.
The event took place in June, and part of the fun was knocking Buffett out of the contest, Randall Lane wrote for Forbes, “the poker equivalent of beating Jack Nicklaus at a charity closest-to-the-hole contest.” You also got a $5,000 bonus.
The 240 players were entertained by comedian Jerry Seinfeld and played seven hours of poker on a Saturday, with pro poker player Phil Gordon doing the commentary.
“Buffett is very self-effacing about his poker prowess,” Lane wrote, quoting an email from Buffett: “You will find me about five minutes after the tournament starts on the sidelines — knocked out as usual in the first round.” Compared with bridge, he said, “I just don't care about poker as much.”
But Buffett held his own for a while, even gaining some chips early on.
“A pharmaceutical entrepreneur named Dennis Jones took him out almost an hour later, earning four days at L'Auberge d'Aspen and a scalp he can brag about for the rest of his life,” the story said. “Buffett wound up 121st and spent much of the rest of the day gamely posing for pictures with anyone who asked.”
The last two players were Jeff Corzine, son of the former New Jersey governor, and Berkshire board member Susan Decker, former president of Yahoo. Corzine won, leaving Decker to claim a trip to Skibo Castle in Scotland and a barrel of Dalmore whiskey.
France a risk
Investors are paying too much for French government debt, according to an executive with Berkshire division General Re-New England Asset Management Inc., Bloomberg reported.
Investors are trying to cut their investment risks in Spain and Italy, where government bonds are in danger of default.
“France is significantly overvalued,” wrote John Gilbert, the division's chief investment officer, in a newsletter. “We do not know if the markets will turn on France. It is possible that France will simply continue to get a bye on size — it is a big country with a big enough market to absorb funds fleeing weaker venues.
“But investors making such a bet appear to us to be whistling past a graveyard.”
France should be paying 4.5 percent to 5 percent on its 10-year bonds, he said, but the investor demand has pushed that down to about 2.1 percent. German bonds, with less risk, fell to 1.34 percent, while Spain's debt rose to 6.47 percent and Italy's to 5.82 percent.
The percentages increase for bonds that are more likely to default. German bonds, perceived as safer, can attract investors even though yields are lower.
Buffett said recently that he reduced his holdings of Spanish, Italian and French bonds about two years ago. As of June 30, Berkshire still owns bonds issued by Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands.
The Omaha World-Herald Co. is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Contact the writer:
Have a question for Steve Jordon about the Oracle of Omaha? Submit your questions now, then join Steve at 11:30 on Tuesday to discuss the latest news about Warren Buffett.
Find more of The World-Herald's coverage of Warren Buffett here.