of Omaha)是否已“江郎才盡”？沃倫•巴菲特(Warren Buffett)在最近發佈的致伯克希爾-哈撒韋公司(Berkshire
滿 飛機的人基本上都是到奧馬哈參加沃倫－巴菲特的公司伯克希爾-哈撒韋(Berkshire Hathaway)股東年會的﹐包括一位坐在頭等艙、穿著筆挺深藍色西裝的小男孩。或者更準確地說﹐他們是去覲見“股神”巴菲特和他的長期搭檔查理•芒格 (Charlie Munger)。還可以引用巴菲特自己的話說﹐他們是受邀參加一場資本家大型音樂會。
上 週六﹐我就坐在奧馬哈體育場裡和來自世界各地的三萬一千名伯克希爾股東聽巴菲特和芒格講他們的投資原則和作人哲學。我在國內沒有參加過股東大會﹐不知道是 什麼樣子。去年我到芝加哥報道過摩托羅拉股東大會﹐當時公司業績大幅下滑﹐一位大股東正在和董事會打架﹐會場上股東和管理層針鋒相對﹐氣氛非常緊張。
而 伯克希爾股東大會可能是世界上最好玩、氣氛也最輕鬆的股東大會之一。大會是以題為“查理選總統”的漫畫片開始的。說的是巴菲特和比爾•蓋茨說服芒格去競選 總統﹐因為美國需要一個知道怎樣掙錢而不是花錢的領導人。巴菲特將身兼商業部長、財政部長和美聯儲主席數職﹐而蓋茨將擔任科技部長。
更重 要的是﹐與會的人對巴菲特和芒格有太多尊敬﹐很少有人用責問的口氣（只有一個印地安部落提問伯克希爾控制的一家公司水壩造成的污染問題）﹐甚至很少有人問 公司為什麼做這個或不做那個。除了這些﹐問什麼的都有。外國人（你想象不到有多少德國人和印度人提問）會問伯克希爾什麼時候去他們國家投資買公司﹐小孩子 問該讀什麼書﹐還有問內向的人怎樣在事業上成功。
從加州來的Robert Harte和妻子Jeanne Harte是第三次來參加大會了。Robert說﹐巴菲特和芒格是喜歡重復自己﹐但學習就在於不斷重復﹐而且他們兩人都很擅長用簡單的語言解釋複雜的話題。這個複雜的世界需要清晰的啟示。
從 南加州來的Sasha Meshkov說﹐她是做金融咨詢工作的﹐她發現巴菲特誠實得不可思議﹐在這一行是很難得的。在紐約金融界工作的中國人毛學軍是第一次參加伯克希爾股東大 會﹐但他已經打算明年再去。他說：“就象基督徒不會一輩子只去一次教堂一樣﹐價值投資者也不會一輩子只去一次最著名的價值投資者的聚會。”
從 亞利桑那州來的Brian Henderson也說：“這就象去教堂﹐即便你差不多能猜到他要說什麼﹐我還是需要聽他說﹐因為那些原則很難遵守。”他還說﹐如果你象巴菲特一樣遵守價 值投資原則﹐你在投資世界裡會是極少數。每年開年會的這一天是一年中唯一的機會﹐能讓他感到週圍人和他做的是一樣的事情。
上 海熙可控股總裁朱演銘說﹐他出差時經常聽一本巴菲特投資原則的錄音書﹐因為它能讓他遠離市場上的噪音﹐保持頭腦清醒﹐遵守價值投資原則。中證萬融的趙炳賢 說他研究巴菲特已經有十幾年了﹐那本致股東信的書也看了有十幾遍了。他最佩服巴菲特的是﹐他能把一個非常簡單的投資方法堅持50年﹐重復50年。他認為雖 然中國的市場環境和美國很不一樣﹐但在中國象巴菲特一樣做長期投資可能機會更多﹐因為沒有人在長線上競爭。廣東今日投資董事長何伯權最佩服巴菲特的人生理 念──不把賺錢看作人生最高理想。
Monday, 5 May 2008
Warren Buffett's Monday Morning CNBC Interview: The Transcript
Here is a (somewhat rough) transcript of Warren Buffett's live interview with Becky Quick on Squawk Box this morning, following this weekend's Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting.
Becky: Joe, Hi, thank you very much. Wasn't sure if this was going to work or not, but we're live here with Warren Buffett. May we grab you for a few minutes. I know you're on your way out the door. Just wanted to catch up with you to reflect on everything that's happened over the weekend. End of the meeting. What do you think? What was your highlight of the weekend?
Buffett: Well, 31,000 people coming. Losing my voice. Having 31,000 people, maybe more than 31,000 people come and join us here. It's been a lot of fun.
Becky: Your voice does sound hoarse. You did a lot of talking over the weekend?
Buffett: I did a lot of talking, We had a three-hour press conference yesterday. And then we went to dinner and talked a lot there, and talked afterwards.
Becky: About 5-1/2 hours of shareholder questions at the meeting itself.
Buffett: Right, right.
Becky: So here I'll be a total pain and ask you to use your voice a little bit more, if that works out for you. Now, Mr. Buffett, I know a lot of times .. we talked to you last week about the Wrigley-Mars deal, and we got to ask you a lot of questions. Basically, at Squawk Box, we've thrown everything we could at you. We've come up with our best questions and tossed them at you. We had our viewers write in questions and you were gracious enough to answer all of those. I'm wondering if you wouldn't mind playing a new game with me this morning.
Buffett: Whatever you want to play.
Becky: Let's do a little bit of role player here. Since you've already answered questions from everybody else, I was trying to figure out how to do this a little differently. My thought was, well, if I was a world leader I couldn't think o f a better person to ask advice from than the Oracle of Omaha. So, if I'm a world leader and I could get about a minute of your time, I might have a question for you. Alright? So, I'll be the world leader, you be Warren Buffett.
Buffett: Next time I get to be the world leader. (Laughter.)
Becky: Alright, first up, briiing, briiing, hello Mr. Buffett, this is Ben Bernanke. I am the chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Buffett: I've heard of you.
Becky: Oh? Thank you, sir, very much. Do you think I went too far with that last rate cut?
Buffett: Well, I don't think there's much need for more rate cuts. They've played that out, and if you get rates down too low you've got a real problem. So I think I'd quit now.
Becky: You would quit now?
Becky: That's pretty abrupt. OK, sir, thank you for your time, I appreciate it. (Laughter.) OK, let's try another one. Excuse me, excuse me, my name is Hank Paulson. I'm the Secretary of the Treasury. You know, we just got this great stimulus package together for the United States. Do you think it's enough, or do I need to come up with a second stimulus package and fast?
Buffett: Well, I think there are downside to economic stimulus. I don't think its necessarily going to do an enormous amount of good. In fact, I think most people, when they get it, really should pay down their credit card bills, if they owe money on that. But, instead of dropping $600 from the sky you could drop $6000 from the sky, but it has consequences later on in the inflationary area. So I think you have to be a little bit careful about dropping money on people and the economy.
Becky: So you don't think ..
Buffett: You don't look like Hank. Have you changed your hair?
Becky: Just a little bit. But, you don't think it's a good idea, Mr. Buffett, to send out the checks we just started sending out last week.
Buffett: Well, it's got pluses and minuses. You can obviously stimulate an economy by mailing money to people. And if you want to mail them $6000 instead of $600 you'll get more stimulus. But it can't be a free lunch in terms of monetary policy and the eventual economic consequences. I think you want to be careful using that tool.
Becky: Do you prefer that people really go and spend down their credit card debt? Because what we all had been thinking they would go out and do some spending and that would help the economy. If they just pay down their credit card debt, they're not necessarily doing what we wanted.
Buffett: Well that may be. But I think that anybody that's paying 15 to 18 percent on credit card debt is out of their mind if they don't use the stimulus to pay down the credit card debt. Because they're not going to be earning 15 or 18 percent with money. And to the extent that they're in a hole now because they over-borrowed in the past they should pay down debt. If I owed money at 15 to 18 percent and I got $600 or $6000, I would use it to pay down the debt.
Becky: OK, let's try another one. My name is John McCain, and Mr. Buffett, you are on record saying you'd support either Obama or Hillary Clinton, both of my opponents, and I just have question for you, sir. Is there anything I can do, any economic issue I can get behind, that would actually make you think twice about potentially supporting me.
Buffett: I would say that if you felt the tax burden should be shifted in a significant way to the super-rich and away from the middle class, I would say that would make me reevaluate you.
Becky: So I could eventually gain your support come November?
Buffett: Well,, in the end I vote on issues now. I think it's pretty clear in many major areas what all three candidates would do. And I think nit's unlikely, unless he has a serious change, a lobotomy or something like that (laughs) .. I don't think McCord is going to change his views to be in accord with mine. I admire him a lot. I think he's an absolutely first-class human being, and if the Republicans are going to elect somebody I hope it's John McCain. But he has too many ideas that are different than I do, particular in terms of what I would call social justice.
Becky: OK, let me try one more for you. I am going to ask you, my name is (Microsoft CEO) Steve Ballmer, and I come to you this morning ..
Buffett: You've shrunk. (Laughter.)
Becky: A little, but I come to you this morning because you are known as the negotiator, the man who knows the art of the deal better than anyone else. I'm not asking you about technology, but I've decided to walk away from Yahoo. Was that the right decision, was that a good negotiating tactic?
Buffett: Well, I don't know if it's a negotiating tactic. I think he may have decided he simply had gone as far as he could go. You do have to have some sort of a limit. You can want something badly, but it's not worth any price to the buyer. I don't know that much about Yahoo, so I don't know where his choking point would be, but he evidently hit it. And if you hit your choking point, you quit.
Becky: And you don't come back for more? Do I walk away for good?
Buffett: No, you may come back later on. I mean, he may have some shareholders of Yahoo coming to him in six months, a year from now. Who knows how all that plays out? But you have to decide how much something's worth. I've walked away from deals, and I mean it when I walk away. The seller has occasionally come back. It happened with See's Candy in 1972. They wanted 30 million. We were going to pay 25 million. And we walked. They walked after us, fortunately. (Laughter.)
Becky: OK, so you could be convinced eventually to come back. OK, let's try one more. I'm Jean-Claude Trichet. I'm the head of the ECB. I'm the European central banker. I have been standing pat on interest rates. Am I doing the right thing, or is there a risk that this flue virus that the American economy appears to have picked up will actually come over to Europe?
Buffett: Well, I think it causes problems in the United States, with the currency problems we already have. Interest rates in Europe are significantly higher than the U.S. I don't think he's exactly playing ball, but I think he has a different responsibility in life and may b e much more worried about inflation than Bernanke is. Or Bernanke may feel like he'll be like Scarlett O'Hara and worry about inflation tomorrow, or something. But he has to decide, in terms of his obligations, his obligations are to the European Union and he obviously feels that if he drops rates a whole lot that he's going to pay a price in terms of possibly igniting inflation that he's not willing to pay.
Becky: But is there a chance that I, Jean-Claude Trichet, will wake up tomorrow and find that I'm behind the curve, just like the Fed found itself last year.
Buffett: I'm glad you're asking these questions in English, actually. It's kind of you to do that. (Laughs.)
Becky: Anything for you, Mr. Buffett.
Buffett: Any central banker is going to make a few mistakes. So there's always a chance he's making a mistake. But I'm sure that the facts that he's got, to him, when he weighs them, say to him, I don't want to drop rates way down and if the Americans do, well, they've got their own problems. I've seen inflation before, I know how hard it is once it gets ignited to put it out. But he could be wrong, sure.
Becky: OK, that's probably not very reassuring, but thank you very much for your time Mr. Buffett. OK, new call, briiing, I'm (JPMorgan Chase CEO) Jamie Dimon and Mr. Buffett, you said that two days was not enough time to evaluate the risk of buying Bear Stearns. That's why you didn't do the deal. But now it's been eight weeks since that deal, so do you think I made the right move by stepping in for Bear Stearns.
Buffett: From a social standpoint, I do think he made the right move. The Fed made the right move in getting somebody to do it. I don't think he'll know the answer to that for quite awhile. But I will say this. A very high percentage of Jamie Dimon's moves have been the right moves.
Becky: For now, you say .. when you say socially, what do you mean?
Buffett: I mean that if the Fed hadn't moved in on that Sunday the following week could well have been something like Wall Street has never seen.
Becky: OK, that's the end of my role playing. That's all I came up with. But I do have a couple of other quick questions. You told us a week ago that this recession could be longer and deeper than a lot of people are expecting at this point. Yet when you come to the midwest, there was just a report out Friday that said this nine-state area is in better shape than a lot of other places because of the biofuel situation, because of the price of commodities, because the housing bubble didn't inflate as much as it did in other areas. Are you seeing things here? Do you think things are better here in the midwest than in other parts of the economy.
Buffett: Yeah, it is. We've been hit a lot less harder by the fall of house prices than a place like California or Nevada or Arizona. They never went up remotely as high, so they didn't have as far to come back. And we're relatively prosperous here. Our unemployment rate is less. At our (Nebraska) Furniture Mart Saturday, we did 7-1/4 million dollars worth of business. It was a record, about 10 percent higher than any day we've done in the history of the company. Any retailer will tell you 7-1/4 in one day at a furniture store is a lot of business. People are relatively prosperous here. I would say the recession has not hit in any big way here.
Becky: What else did you find this weekend, just in terms of the sales, because I know you have a different companies that were selling? What other numbers can you tell us about what Berkshire Hathaway shareholders were spending this weekend?
Buffett: They were buying 1-1/2 pairs of boots a minute. They were buying jewelry, every nine seconds we were writing a ticket. Almost all of the places broke the records.
Becky: Was it up to your expectations? Did it exceed your expectations?
Buffett: It exceeded expectations. I don't like to be in the guidance game, so I didn't give out a lot of numbers before, but it exceeded expectations.
Becky: When you look at grains and commodities, do you worry that those prices have reached a bubble and that will be the next bubble we hear the sound of hissing come out of?
Buffett: I don't know if it's a bubble, but they certainly have moved up a lot. Steel is up a huge amount. I think you've got a lot of inflationary pressure, which is not wage pressure yet. When and if it gets to that, then the fun begins. (Laughs).
Becky: I know you have a meeting with your directors later in this morning. What's on the agenda?
Buffett: We'll talk about succession. Not immediate succession, I might add. (Laughs.) But we always talk about that. We talk about the same candidates, their pluses and minuses. The same way with the investment officer. There's not a whole lot .. We'll talk briefly about the Mars-Wrigley deal, but we don't have a lot to talk about. We don't do time-filling activities. We don't go through a lot of ritual. We really talk about the guts of the business and they'll ask me about specific businesses, but they're very well informed. I send out a lot of materials to them all the time. So, we don't need a lot of time in directors meetings.
Becky: Aside from the 31,000, was there any one moment that jumped out at you this weekend, where you thought this has never happened before?
Buffett: Well, when Susan Lucci took over the CEO post, I ended it quickly, but ..
Becky: We should just point out for everybody who didn't know about this already, Susan Lucci, who plays Erica Kane on All My Children came .. and there's always some surprise at the shareholders meeting, and this time around she was the surprise. She took the stage and pretended that she was taking your job.
Buffett: For awhile it was a little too good, the acting was too good. The crowd seemed to like her better than me, so I got out there fast.
Becky: One last question ... the cover of Barron's over the weekend mentioned that Mr. Sokol will be the heir apparent when it comes to succession. What can you tell us about that? ..
Buffett: I was going to tell you who is going to be the editor of Barron's next, but (laughs) since they broke that story won't give you the story. But they have no, and I think they mentioned it in the article, they have no knowledge of it at all, but they have a lot of fun speculating. And we will see, but I hope not sometime soon.
现年82岁的奥马哈圣贤(Sage of Omaha)是否已“江郎才尽”？沃伦•巴菲特(Warren Buffett)在最近发布的致伯克希尔-哈撒韦公司(Berkshire Hathaway)股东年度信函中承认，公司2012年业绩欠佳。他也承认，明年的致股东信可能会显示出，他旗下基金近5年业绩涨幅将首次未能跑赢同期的 标准普尔(S&P)指数。今年的业绩“欠佳”体现在，巴菲特旗下基金的资产净值仅增长了14.4%，涨幅比表现更令人鼓舞的标普指数低1.6%。预计2009-13年间业绩 涨幅与同期标准普尔指数涨幅差距将扩大，原因在于，这5年的平均业绩中将不包含2008年的数据（那一年标普指数暴跌，但伯克希尔的资产净值仅略微缩 水）。与此同时，这5年的平均业绩中仍将包含2009年的数据（那一年标普指数部分反弹，但伯克希尔资产净值回升幅度并未超过前一年缩水幅度）。
看上去，就连巴菲特也被拖入了那个“对财富具有毁灭性影响”的陷阱，即：以相对业绩来评判投资人的投资技巧。按照这一标准，1999年是巴菲特业绩 最差的一年。但业绩欠佳是衡量他投资技巧的一个因素，而非批评他投资技巧的理由。他那些受到“新经济”幻梦诱惑的竞争对手，大多将很快遭受巨大损失，损失 幅度将超过之前所获的所有收益。如果一家基金管理公司在1999年的业绩达到了市场平均水平，那么我绝不会向这家公司投一分钱。
然 而，记者们的关注导致一个结果：有关巴菲特的报道超过了有关其他任何投资界人士的报道。约50年前，卡罗尔•卢米斯(Carol Loomis)首次在《财富》(Fortune)杂志上报道了巴菲特。最近，她整理了一本与巴菲特的来往信函选集。这本信函选集提供的经验是，巴菲特成功 的起源没有什么奥秘，而且甚至没有什么令人费解的地方。
伯克希尔拥有很多保险公司，这些公司都是赚钱机器，因为保险业的性质就是先投保、后理赔。这些基金以及伯克希尔的留存收益都被投资于一些独资企业 中，或被用于大量购买一些上市公司的股份。这个投资组合中的所有企业都有一个显著特征：具备可持续的竞争优势，这种优势也就是一种很难、或不可能被竞争对 手复制的市场地位。巴菲特的投资组合很少变化。巴菲特常说，股票最好的持有期限是永远。
如果说巴菲特是一名天才，那么他就是深谙简单之道的天才。要达到他对企业成功本质的理解水平，不需要特殊的洞察力或独到的见解。我们也不难看出，美 国运通(American Express)、可口可乐(Coca-Cola)、IBM、富国银行(Wells Fargo)以及最近的亨氏(Heinz)（伯克希尔持有的最大一笔资产）等企业，都满足他的标准。
这将我们带回最初的问题：伯克希尔的模仿者为何那么少？毕竟，企业经济学的另一个重要观点是，能带来超额利润的投资策略只要能够复制，必然被模仿， 直到跟风者的涌入迫使该策略的回报率降至普通水平。为什么大多数投资经理宁愿持有更多只股票、以高得多的频率买进卖出、参与复杂得多的交易，换来更不稳定 的收益和更低的利润？
In narratology, a back-story (also back story or backstory) is the history behind the situation extant at the start of the main story. This literary device is often employed to lend the main story depth or verisimilitude. A back-story may include the history of characters, objects, countries, or other elements of the main story. Back-stories are usually revealed, sketchily or in full, chronologically or otherwise, as the main narrative unfolds. However, a story creator may also create portions of a back-story or even an entire back-story that is solely for his or her own use in writing the main story and is never revealed in the main story.
In A coming biography on the Oracle of Omaha may not get much support from its subject
In A coming biography on the Oracle of Omaha may not get much support from its subject
By JEFFREY A. TRACHTENBERG
August 23, 2008; Page W1
August 23, 2008; Page W1
One of the most anticipated books of the fall is "The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life." The title's publisher, Bantam, paid $7.2 million for the North American rights and expects to sell more than 1 million hardcover copies of "The Snowball," which is due out Sept. 29.
Few investors have generated as much sustained public interest as Mr. Buffett, one of the world's richest men, with a fortune estimated as high as $62 billion. R.R. Bowker's Books in Print says there are an estimated 60 titles in print about him, with more than a dozen new ones on tap this year. Now Bantam is about to find out whether there's a limit to Buffetmania.
|Warren Buffett, 2008.|
What separates "The Snowball" by Alice Schroeder, was that Mr. Buffett pledged his cooperation to the first-time author. He gave her open access to two large file rooms that included material on his investments, his correspondence and topics of personal interest, she says. She says he provided her with a letter that she was able to show to people she wanted to interview that confirmed he was cooperating with her. The author, who initially met Mr. Buffett in the late 1990s when she was covering Berkshire Hathaway Inc., as an analyst at Paine Webber, estimates she spent 2,000 hours with Mr. Buffett during the project and recorded 300 hours of interviews. Mr. Buffett is chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, an Omaha-based conglomerate with large insurance holdings.
The book's title is based on a comment that Mr. Buffett is said to have once made: "Life is like a snowball. The important thing is finding wet snow and a really long hill."
|Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images|
|Mr. Buffett in 1980|
Some publishers estimate Bantam will have to sell 600,000 to 700,000 copies to make a profit. The book's performance may well be affected by how much the 77-year-old investor cooperates in publicizing it and "how much he represents that the book is accurate," says Adrian Zackheim, publisher of the Portfolio business imprint of Pearson PLC's Penguin Group (USA). (Mr. Zackheim gave the manuscript a close look, but ultimately wasn't among the final bidders.)
It's an intriguing issue because Mr. Buffett doesn't currently have plans to promote "The Snowball." In an email, an assistant to Mr. Buffett said the investor is "not doing interviews about the book at this time."
A person familiar with the situation says Mr. Buffett was initially upset about some of the content. The issue has to do with his first marriage. Mr. Buffett's first wife, Susan, left him and moved to San Francisco in 1977. The two, however, never divorced, and with his wife's encouragement, Astrid Menks, a waitress at the French Cafe in Omaha, eventually moved in with Mr. Buffett. She later married him following Susan's death in 2004.
The matter has been discussed publicly in the past, specifically in Roger Lowenstein's 1995 "Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist," which stated that all three got along well together. Mr. Lowenstein is a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal.
|Mr. Buffett with Bill Gates in July 2008|
In an email Friday, an assistant for Mr. Buffett said Mr. Buffett said it was "not true" that he was limiting his promotional support because he was initially upset with the contents of the book.
Ms. Schroeder says Mr. Buffett understood that her book would explore this aspect of his personal life. "He said to interview anyone I wanted," she says.
What is less clear is whether Mr. Buffett expected that Ms. Schroeder would seek out and interview as many people as she did who were familiar with Susan Buffett's life. "He said he wanted to reconcile his public and private selves," says Ms. Schroeder. "He knew I was thorough."
Ms. Schroeder acknowledges that Mr. Buffett disagreed with some of what he read in the manuscript but says he didn't ask her to delete anything. She adds that she has "multiple sources for everything of any significance in my book."
In a previous email, Mr. Buffett said, "I'm fine with the book and hope it sells well. It treats me better than I deserve but I'm willing to adjust to that." An assistant to Mr. Buffett said the book will be available for sale at the company's next annual meeting in May and that "sales should be very high."
Some publishers wonder if the absence of Mr. Buffett on the morning talk shows could be a problem. Former General Electric Co. chief Jack Welch tirelessly flogged "Straight from the Gut," his 2001 memoir, on such shows and was able to overcome the fact it was published on the day of the 9/11 attacks. Revered both on Wall Street and Main Street, Mr. Buffett is only sporadically available to the public and would be a big draw in any television and radio campaign.
"It's very curious, because Warren clearly authorized her to write this book," says Rick Wolff, publisher and editor-in-chief of Business Plus, an imprint owned by Lagardere SCA's Hachette Livre. "This is unusual. A lot of money was spent on the book."
Irwyn Applebaum, publisher of Bertelsmann AG's Bantam Dell Publishing Group, says Mr. Buffett's participation in promoting the book was never guaranteed. "He gave her access to his contacts, his friends and the opportunity to get to know him better than any other writer, which is what makes the book so outstanding," he says. "Would we love to have Warren Buffett doing interviews for the book? Who wouldn't? But we're moving ahead as planned." Ms. Schroeder has been booked to appear on NBC's "Today" show on Sept. 29.
Ms. Schroeder, a public accountant by training, was a well-regarded insurance analyst at Morgan Stanley in 2003. After obtaining Mr. Buffett's cooperation on the book, she agreed to take a leave to work on the project full-time -- she remains an advisory director -- and when news of that decision circulated on Wall Street, several publishers contacted her. A friend then suggested that she work with agent David Black, who represents such best-selling authors as Mitch Albom and Erik Larson.
|The cover of 'The Snowball' by Alice Schroeder.|
"People were beginning to slice him into tiny bits: investor, corporate manager, whatever," says Ms. Schroeder of Mr. Buffett. "I thought: This man has a unified way of looking at everything. It is one set of ideas. The right book answers the question: What events in his life formed this man and influenced him?"
In fall 2005, Mr. Black submitted a 160-page proposal to New York publishers. Two eager frontrunners emerged: Bantam's Mr. Applebaum and Gina Centrello, publisher of Bertelsmann's Random House Publishing Group. Each was asked to fly independently to Omaha to meet with Mr. Buffett. "He needed assurances from publishers he had never met that they wouldn't market the book in a way that presented him as the quasi-author or that would make untrue claims," says Ms. Schroeder, 51 years old.
Mr. Applebaum, who ultimately triumphed, declined to comment on the content of "The Snowball." And while he noted that it has become a ruthlessly competitive marketplace for new books, he added, "Some books burn brightly week after week, and that's our expectation here." Bantam declined to make a copy of the book available.
Many believe "The Snowball" will be a major hit. "It will be my biggest book of the year," says Dave Hathaway, business book buyer for Barnes & Noble Inc., the country's largest book retailer. "There's a certain amount of mystery that shrouds him. He's the last true business icon."