Billionaire chats online at videoconference.
He might be the richest man in the world, but Warren Buffett is not above taking the time to share is knowledge and expertise with budding business professionals.
During a videoconference yesterday, University of Missouri business students had the chance to pick the brain of the billionaire investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. as a part of a daylong educational forum hosted by MU’s Trulaske College of Business.
"Develop your own talents," Buffett said via satellite from a television station in his hometown of Omaha, Neb. He added that oral and written communication skills are the most important tools a person can have coming out of college.
"If you have those abilities when you’re young, you jump out," the 77-year-old business giant said.
Buffett, who last month was named richest man in the world by Forbes magazine with an estimated self-made fortune of about $62 billion, fielded nearly 20 questions from students during the hourlong question-and-answer session, touching on everything from the nation’s slumping economy to his personal business philosophy.
Of the Federal Reserve’s recent bailout of Bear Stearns, the nation’s fifth-largest investment banking firm, Buffet said it was a wise decision that prevented a potential economic disaster.
"I think the Fed did the right thing," he said. "It would have been a much more sad situation for the American economy … if the government hadn’t acted the way they did."
But if he were leading the Fed, Buffet said, he would work to stimulate the economy while remaining a little bit more cautious. "I wouldn’t try to shower money on the public," he said.
That attitude also is reflected in his business philosophy.
"I don’t need a" stock "quote to know I made a good investment," he said. "I like to look at the financial information … before I look at the price," and "when I find something … I reach for my checkbook."
Asked by one student whether he had to give up anything to get to where is today, Buffett’s response was unequivocally honest.
"I really didn’t have to make any sacrifices," he said. "It has not been a tough life to do what I do in any way, shape or form."
Although that might be an understatement by the world’s wealthiest man, who bought his first stock at age 11 and filed his first tax return at 13, Buffett’s words were a source of inspiration and encouragement for 21-year-old Ellie Mills, an MU senior.
"He’s a genuine guy," said Mills, a finance and real estate major who was one of the lucky few selected for the Q&A session. "It was so refreshing to see someone with so much power who’s also so down-to-earth."
Bruce Walker, dean of the business college, said more than 400 students, faculty and business professionals attended the forum.
The event closed with the videoconference featuring Buffett, which he said was the perfect way to close a daylong forum aimed at fostering professional development for students pursuing a business career.
"It’s just a remarkable opportunity to be able to have a Q&A session with a person who is surely the most famous and successful investor of this generation," Walker said.
Reach Jordan Raubolt at (573) 815-1709
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