That time Warren Buffett proposed to me …
Last year, while completing my final year of the HBA program at Ivey, I took a Value Investing course with George Athanassakos. Our class took a trip to the great town of Omaha, Nebraska. You can guess why. We had the lucky chance to see iconic investor Warren Buffett.
I wrote a piece called Western students gain insight into world of Warren Buffett for Ivey’s communications department.
The trip featured a Q&A with Buffett and then lunch at Piccolo Pete’s, one of his favourite restaurants.
As the days neared to the trip, I was even luckier than I thought before. Professor Athanassakos told me that on previous trips, Mr. Buffett had offerred to drive some students from the conference centre where the Q&A was held to the restaurant. Because I was so “keen” (see my username for this blog to verify), my professor wanted to know, if Buffett offered, would I like to ride with him in his car? This is one of the rare times when I knew being a keener was going to make me seem cool in the eyes of my peers.
We flew in one evening in February and stayed at the Magnolia Hotel, the same place shareholders of Buffett’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, stay for the company’s AGM. The next morning, we gathered with students from various American universities to hear Buffett speak. I had done a lot of research on him prior to the trip, and he repeated much of the sage advice that is often cited in quotes.
He was also funny. There were bottles of pop on ice at the back of the room, and Buffet opened his talk by explaining to us exactly how much money (right down to the cent) he makes per bottle of pop sold (he owns about 9% of Coca-Cola). “So, I don’t care if you drink them, just open up all those bottles,” he told us, half laughing.
Some students from our group got to ask questions, and then everyone else left for Piccolo Pete’s.
I’m sure my hand was shaking when I reached out for a handshake with the Oracle of Omaha on the way to the parking lot to find his car (he drives a Cadillac). I also met the other lucky students from a few of the other schools. There was another girl and two other guys. I have no recollection of their names or schools. I’m sure they don’t remember me. All of our heads were clouded with excitement and nervousness.
Buffett asked each of us what we wanted to do with our life. When I told him I wanted to be a journalist, he said journalism is a career he’d always wanted to pursue. If he hadn’t been an investor, he told me he would have been an investigative journalist. He said many of the investigative skills used by journalists are the same as those he uses when investigating a company’s worthiness as an investment.
At lunch, Buffett ordered his signature chicken Parmesan. He covered it in a hefty sprinkling of salt. He knew all of the staff, and they gave him an extra large root beer float for dessert.
Everyone had a chance to take a photo with Buffett after lunch. When it was my turn, I asked if we could pose shaking hands.
“I’ll do even better than that!” he said, grabbing a railing and lowering his 79-year-old self down on one knee.
My face blushed redder than ever as he took my left hand and pretended to plead with my to marry him.
My classmates called me a D-list celebrity after this. They said I should have gotten the agreement in writing – then I could claim half his billions. I’m not sure how that would stand up in court.