Warren Buffett and Bill Gates didn’t just wander into an Old Market nostalgia store the day after the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in May, with “Little Brown Jug” playing in the background.
No, some of Gates’ staffers had been to Omaha in the past and were fascinated by Larry Richling’s Fairmont Antiques & Mercantile store/Hollywood Candy, 1209 Jackson St., and its combination of candy store, memorabilia collections, soda fountain and more.
The Gates group decided that it would be just the place for an episode of Gates’ video blog, showing the two friends (Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, and Gates, co-founder of Microsoft) having a good ‘ol time in Omaha.
Richling, who was sworn to secrecy until Gates posted the blog last week, told me that he closed the store for the video shoot, which lasted just short of an hour and was edited down to 3½ minutes. But the setup took much more time.
The producers had some ideas that ended up on the editing room floor, so to speak: Three sets of Buffett and Gates lookalikes — two women, two young male versions, two older male versions — didn’t end up in the finished video.
Four Nissan Figaros — two-seater convertibles made in 1990 — brought to Omaha from Virginia were supposed to be a major bit but ended up as quick cuts showing Gates and Buffett arriving at the store.
The crew brought along storyboards showing where Buffett and Gates would pause and discuss pinball games, vinyl records and other items stashed in the old building. Buffett suggested sampling some of the candies, Richling said, but Gates demurred: “I think that’s shoplifting,” he said, and everyone laughed.
Richling said he showed them a million-dollar bill they had autographed several years ago when they visited his Hollywood Diner on Abbott Drive.
The two lingered longer than expected in the soda fountain area before slipping out the back door and heading to their next appointment.
Kansas gets new Geico office, despite Buffett's preference
Does Buffett really let Berkshire’s companies make their own decisions?
He said in Lenexa, Kansas, last week that he had been lobbying for years to get Berkshire’s auto insurance company, Geico, to open a Nebraska location, but Geico chose the Kansas City suburb for its newest office, a service center due to employ 500 people over the next five years.
No hard feelings, Buffett said after traveling south for the official announcement and ribbon-cutting, according to the Kansas City Star.
“I’ve got to tell you, Lenexa is the closest place now to Omaha, so this is my new home location,” he said.
Geico invested almost $10 million to renovate an existing building and is hiring now, with customer service staff starting at $17 an hour and sales people making up to $5,000 a month in added incentives, the Star reported.
The Kansas City area also is home to Berkshire’s Helzberg Diamonds jewelry store chain, a Nebraska Furniture Mart store, car dealerships under the Van Tuyl Group name, homebuilder Summit Homes and a real estate business.
Susan Buffett says Girl Inc. 'more relevant now than ever'
In a recent Barron’s magazine article, Buffett’s daughter Susan said Girls Inc. is “more relevant now than ever.”
“A girls-only place allows the girls to be free and shine,” she said. “As we all know, things change when the boys are in the room, and vice versa for the boys.”
That’s why her Sherwood Foundation donated $2.5 million to the national and local nonprofit group in the past year, Barron’s said. Warren Buffett funds the foundation, along with foundations run by her brothers, Peter and Howard, with annual donations of Berkshire stock.
Susie, as she is known, said the siblings don’t mind that her father pledged the bulk of his wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named after their late mother.
“He told us in advance,” she said. “And to be honest, I don’t think I’d want the burden of giving that much away.”
She said she has “the most boring life you can imagine, which I love. I don’t want to be flying around the world and going to fancy parties and having my picture in a lot of magazines. I just don’t care about that.”
Rather, she cares about supporting Girls Inc. and dozens of other causes through the foundation. “I feel like I have figured out what matters in this world.”
Barron's columnist offers Warren Buffett eight suggestions
Barron’s columnist Andrew Bary recommended eight things for Buffett to do to prepare Berkshire for the future:
Hold an investor day to let vice chairmen Greg Abel and Ajit Jain and other top executives discuss Berkshire’s businesses with financial professionals.
Have other Berkshire executives add their comments to the annual letter to shareholders.
Buy back Berkshire stock, even if it means adjusting the criteria for that decision.
Consider paying a dividend.
Give more details on Berkshire’s investment portfolio, including a report card on investment managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler.
Make more acquisitions, even at today’s prices.
Report more details on the performance of subsidiaries.
Name Abel as a “probable successor” as CEO.