By SCOTT PATTERSON And KATE KELLY
On Friday, millions of Americans will for the first time own a piece of Warren Buffett.
Mr. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., whose multi-thousand-dollar share price made it a thinly traded luxury of wealthy investors and institutions, is going mainstream as it joins the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index.
More than $1 trillion of investor money directly tracks the index. The result is a scramble for Berkshire shares by index funds that, by one estimate, will reach $14 billion of buying. This further exposes Berkshire stock to the stratagems of fast-moving traders, a brand of investor anathema to Mr. Buffett's general buy-and-hold approach.
Small-time investors, meanwhile, will finally be getting a piece of Mr. Buffett just as uncertainty builds about the future of his $178 billion conglomerate, which is one of the largest public companies in the U.S., selling everything from insurance to underwear. The 79-year-old Mr. Buffett is entering the twilight of his career, and little is known about his succession plans, other than that he has placed the name of his replacement in an envelope he keeps in his office.
Yet small investors are likely soon to have billions of dollars more in Berkshire stock, thanks both to its entry into the index and to a recent stock split.
Berkshire has long had two classes of stock. It split the lower-priced of these, known as the B shares, 50 to 1, making them affordable to more individual investors.
Joel Nath, a 25-year-old accountant who participates in an investment club called "Scratch & Win," always wanted to buy some Berkshire. The late-January split put the B shares, commonly known as Baby B's, within his reach. He bought nine at $73 each. (They closed Thursday at $76.69.)