Investing With Buffett Before He Became The ‘Oracle’

Johnny HopkinsWarren BuffettLeave a Comment

Here’s a great interview with Ryan O’Connor, Founder of Crossroads Capital, on the Planet Microcap Podcast. Ryan’s family had a long history with Warren Buffett before he became famous. During the interview he shares a funny story about his grandmother meeting with a much younger and unsophisticated Warren Buffett, after she had been persuaded by Ryan’s grandfather that Buffett was the ‘man’ when it came to investing. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

I’ll tell you… if you want a good story though. So you gotta kind of port yourself back to the mid 50s. If you ever want a lesson on the difference between optics and reality I think this is kind of a pretty great way to frame the question.

So my dad can still remember when my grandfather came back home from work… and I think they had six kids at the time and they’d go on to have ten.

So my dad… my grandfather sat down for dinner and proceeded to tell the family that he was going to liquidate his IBM holdings, which you’ve got to remember… I mean this is even like pre-nifty 50. IBM was… it was technology as far as business was concerned. Very much like say an Apple or Google of today.

He basically said, “I’m going to liquidate all of our IBM and invest with my poker buddy named Warren”. Well as you can imagine my grandma burst into tears pretty much on the spot convinced that the kids college education was going away. Who was this guy, this, that, and the other.

It’s funny because my grandma in time was Warren’s biggest fan and absolutely fell in love with him but when he came over to our house to get the… at that time there was no street. He had to actually pick up the physical.

So when he came over to my grandparents house my grandmother didn’t know what to expect. I mean you think probably not that far off from what you think of like a Wall Street investment banker today. Six two, good looking, nice suit, the whole kind of dog and pony thing. The doorbell rings and my grandmother goes out to open up the door and Warren’s standing up there. Remember that this is pre-toast masters Buffett so he wasn’t the master of the crowd that we kind of associate with him today.

He was kind of a meek, geeky guy that when she opened up the door his hair was completely dishevelled. She said his suit looked like it had been curled up in a little ball and tossed in the corner of a room. The point being it was immediate and total shock. Not what she had expected from her husband saying, “This is the guy, let’s go all in with this guy.” It wasn’t what… if you were to show an image, Warren wasn’t your guy, let me put it that way all right.

So Warren comes in and proceeds to do his rule of 72 thing, the quick and short of it. The entire time she said she’s just trying… about to have a panic attack the entire time. She can’t even hear what’s going on. You think of like a Simpson’s episode where it’s like you know like that.

So once Warren was done he said, “Hey Bill can I get the stock certificates?” So Warren had to reach out to grab them and when he did his shirt cuff came out and was completely frayed around the edges. So she said that was when it was full scale, “My God! What are we doing”.  But don’t worry for her it turned out quite well in the end.

Even back then one of the things that had kind of mystified me by my grandfather was through talking to him and kind of peeling that onion back. It actually doesn’t surprise me but to the outside world it looked totally ‘Batshit insane!’ I mean there’s no other way to put it.

It was still I think five or six years before Buffett really became almost like a state secret when people would pass his name around in awe in those early days. Hindsight is 20/20, let me put it that way.

You can watch the entire interview here:

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