By Josh P. Hamilton, Bloomberg(UPDATE 2)
``The purpose of the trip is to meet family-owned companies, owners of family companies, the typical European dynasties,'' said Angelo Moratti, vice president of Milan-based Saras SpA, in a telephone interview. ``His idea is that sooner or later one of these great businesses will fall into his hands.''
Scheduled for the third week of May, the tour will take the Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman to Milan, Madrid and as-yet undetermined cities in Germany and Switzerland, Moratti said. Buffett's assistant, Debbie Bosanek, confirmed the trip.
Buffett, 77, has been looking outside the U.S. to put his company's more than $40 billion in cash to work. Moratti said he is organizing the tour along with Eitan Wertheimer, president of Israel-based Iscar Metalworking Cos., acquired by Berkshire in 2006 in Buffett's first non-U.S. acquisition.
Buffett didn't immediately respond to a request for comment through his spokeswoman, Jackie Wilson. Wertheimer didn't immediately respond to an e-mailed request to his assistant, Dalia Seatter.
``There's a lot of interest'' in meeting with Buffett, said Moratti, who helps run the energy company his grandfather founded more than 40 years ago. Saras, which owns the Mediterranean region's largest oil refinery, went public in 2006.
Moratti said he's been a student of Buffett's investing style and a Berkshire investor for more than 10 years. He said he met Buffett about eight years ago through Berkshire's NetJets, a fractional jet ownership company.
Buffett built Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire over four decades from a failing textile maker into a $200 billion holding company with businesses ranging from candy making to insurance. Buffett is the world's richest person, according to Forbes magazine.
Buffett is known for seeking out well-run, privately-held companies with high barriers to would-be competitors, then doing deals on a handshake and letting their founders continue to run them.
Buffett has said that he hoped the purchase of Iscar, which makes cutting tools in plants around the world, would raise Berkshire's international profile and help him find acquisition candidates in ``the bigger economies.'' Berkshire paid $4 billion for an 80 percent stake.