Who picks up the tab when you go to lunch with a billionaire? Warren Buffett, the world’s second-richest man, recently treated 22 Brigham Young University business students to lunch and a 90-minute Q&A session in Omaha, Neb.
The students, who are enrolled in investment classes, and their professors from the Marriott School of Management, jumped at the invitation to meet with Buffett — arguably the world’s greatest investor.
“He is very astute and smart, but we all expected that. What surprised us was his kindness and sense of humor,” says Andrew Dadson, an MBA student from Ghana, Africa. “He was very personable. He acted just like a grandpa would act with a big family around him — entertaining, energetic and happy.”
Buffett fielded questions ranging from who might succeed him to his opinion on the national debt and what he considered to be his worst investment. The 75-year-old answered enthusiastically, sharing stories of investment successes and failures, encouraging students to do their homework — and then take risks.
“Swing big,” Buffett told students at the casual Gorat’s Steakhouse, one of his favorite restaurants. He added that his investment success is nothing the next guy can’t do if he’s willing to make informed decisions — with his head and with his heart.
“This was a phenomenal experience for the students,” says James Engebretsen, assistant dean of the Marriott School and investments academy instructor. “To hear someone who's a hero talk in a very pragmatic way about his success was terrific. He mentioned a number of times how important honesty is and that your word is your bond.”
As part of the lunch, BYU students, along with their Rutgers and University of Utah counterparts, went to the parking lot for pictures. Buffett had students gather around his 2001 Lincoln Town Car to look at his license plate that reads “Thrifty.”
“Society has made me rich,” Buffett told students, explaining his goal to return the favor. “If I died today, 99.5 percent of my wealth would go to charity. There are many problems I want to address. I’m fortunate to have been born here. it was the right time and the right place for me.”
According to Dadson, Buffett’s example showed students the importance of humility.
“His relationships aren’t the cold handshake-type you might expect from someone of his status,” Dadson says. “He put his arm around each of us and gave us personal advice. He seems to be friends with everyone, which is probably how he manages to be so happy.”
Writer: Derek Westra