Warren Watch: Finally, he realizes it wasn't Buffett on that cruise

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Posted: Sunday, January 12, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 1:52 am, Tue May 20, 2014.

James Flannigan of Port Robinson, Ontario, was sorting out his photos and found one of Jerry Livingston from a cruise many years ago. He looked up the name on the Internet and found a 2009 article in this space about Livingston, an Omahan sometimes mistaken for Warren Buffett.

The article said another cruise passenger got the idea that Jerry was Warren. The man wouldn't believe Jerry's denials. “He kept following me around and asking me what he should invest in,” Livingston said.

Livingston even showed his ID, but the passenger reasoned that Buffett probably would travel under an assumed name. As a keepsake, the passenger bought the boarding photo of Jerry and his wife, Mary, that Carnival Cruise had taken as they posed on the gangplank.

As he read the article, Flannigan realized that he was the identity-confused passenger, and he finally believed that his fellow passenger was not Buffett, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

So after an exchange of emails, Flannigan mailed the photo, still in its Carnival Cruise folder, to The World-Herald, asking that it be sent to Livingston with an apology.

“Sorry for being a pest on the ship,” he wrote to Livingston. “But when you said 'buy Berkshire,' I just about fell off my chair.”

To make up for the case of mistaken identity, Flannigan offered an investment tip of his own: a Canadian mining company. “I think they have found the world's richest diamond mine in history on Baffin Island,” he wrote.

Livingston, who is now retired, laughed when he learned about the apology from his unwanted shipboard follower. “I should have told him what I invested in. It would have served him right.”

When 19 students from College of the Holy Cross meet with Buffett on Jan. 31, they won't have a problem finding their way around Omaha.

That's because senior political science manager Kathleen Luther, a member of Holy Cross' finance club, is an Omaha native. The club will attend one of a series of meetings Buffett holds each year with college students.

Among her classmates, she said, “I'm one of the very few who's even heard of Omaha.” She hasn't met Buffett, but one time at a dinner at the Happy Hollow Country Club her mother pointed across the room and said, “That's Warren Buffett.”

“I was 7 years old, I didn't really know what that means,” Luther said. “But over time you start to figure it out pretty quickly.”

Other students sharing the visit will be from the University of Tennessee, the University of California-Davis, UCLA, the University of Houston, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Western Ontario and a group of universities from Brazil.

The highlights include a Q&A session with Buffett and tours of some Berkshire-owned businesses in town.

Holy Cross, in Worcester, Mass., the only liberal arts college in the bunch., doesn't have business or finance majors but has graduates who pursue finance-related careers.

“Our students can leverage their liberal arts training to see the world from a different angle,” said Holy Cross professor David Chu. “That's where they add value.”

Buffett's family has been in Omaha for generations, and so has Luther's. Her relatives include members of the Dodge (real estate) and Lauritzen (banking) families. The daughter of Michael and Laura Luther, she was an Ak-Sar-Ben princess last fall.

BYD, the Chinese auto and battery company, had hoped to import its electric cars to the United States in 2010, but it didn't work.

Now the company, which is 10 percent owned by Berkshire's MidAmerican Energy Holdings, is aiming for late 2015 to introduce some more advanced models of its electric fleet.

One of four models to be imported is the Qin (pronounced “chin” and named after China's first emperor), a plug-in hybrid that takes six seconds to reach 60 mph, has a 43-mile all-electric range and costs $31,400 before incentives, Christopher DeMorro wrote for Gas 2.0.

BYD also tested its 40-foot electric bus in New York City, logging 1,481 miles between Aug. 25 and Oct. 25 with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The bus travels about 150 miles between charges and takes up to four hours to recharge.

The company projects operating costs of 20 to 30 cents per mile, compared with $1.30 for an equivalent bus powered by diesel fuel or natural gas. BYD also is supplying 35 all-electric buses to Los Angeles County.

A stock footnote: Besides Berkshire, BYD said, other U.S. investors own about half of its shares.

An Omaha footnote: We have buses and electric cars here, too, in case BYD is looking for a test market.

The Omaha World-Herald Co. is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

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