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Sunday, March 17, 2013

WSJ: Warren Buffett Pays Bill Gates $1,800



Reading the proxy from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. BRKB -1.15% is always good for a chuckle.
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
There’s something almost silly in the fact that Buffett, one of the world’s richest men, earns a salary of $100,000 at Berkshire—and then cuts a check for $50,000 to reimburse Berkshire for “minor items such as postage or phone calls that are personal.”
But no number is sillier than the $1,800 that board member Bill Gates was paid for his service to Berkshire last year.
The average board fees for companies in the S&P500 was around $241,000 in 2011, according to executive compensation experts at Equilar. So the fees paid by Berkshire are low no matter who’s cashing the check. But with Gates, $1,800 is especially small.
Forbes earlier this month estimated the Microsoft co-founder was worth $67 billion. That means his fees from Berkshire amount to 0.000003% of his net worth.
To put that in context, the average American family’s net worth is about $80,000. So $1,800 for Bill Gates is the equivalent of two-tenths of a cent for the average family.
Gates, of course, has other reasons to sit on the Berkshire board. The charity Gates runs with his wife, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is getting billions of dollars in Berkshire shares from Buffett. And Gates and Buffett are longtime friends.
But Gates certainly isn’t doing it for the money. He’s a man who may have more than $1,800 under his couch cushions.
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