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Warren Buffett on Business: Principles from the Sage of Omaha by Richard J. Connors

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12.4. A Second Job

In 1989 when I—a happy consumer of five cans of Cherry Coke daily—announced our purchase of $1 billion worth of Coca-Cola stock, I described the move as a rather extreme example of putting our money where my mouth was. On August 18 of last year, when I was elected Interim Chairman of Salomon Inc, it was a different story: I put my mouth where our money was.

You've all read of the events that led to my appointment. My decision to take the job carried with it an implicit but important message: Berkshire's operating managers are so outstanding that I knew I could materially reduce the time I was spending at the company and yet remain confident that its economic progress would not skip a beat. The Blumkins, the Friedman family, Mike Goldberg, the Heldmans, Chuck Huggins, Stan Lipsey, Ralph Schey and Frank Rooney (CEO of H.H. Brown, our latest acquisition, which I will describe later) are all masters of their operations and need no help from me. My job is merely to treat them right and to allocate the capital they generate. Neither function is impeded by my work at Salomon.

The role that Charlie and I play in the success of our operating units can be illustrated by a story about George Mira, the one-time quarterback of the University of Miami, and his coach, Andy Gustafson. Playing Florida and near its goal line, Mira dropped back to pass. He spotted an open receiver but found his right shoulder in the unshakable grasp of a Florida linebacker. The right-handed Mira ...

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