A front page story by Scott Patterson in Saturday’s WSJ detailed the scary times last fall when it seemed the economy was collapsing right in front of our eyes. Warren Buffett says ‘he looked into the abyss’ when confronted with the scene–the government bailing out big banks, and most of them calling him frantically trying to get him to invest billions…and in most cases he said no. One story was particularly amazing to me.
Buffett was in Edmonton Canada for a charity concert. He was reached at his hotel room at 6pm by bankers trying desperately to put together a buy-out deal for Lehman Brothers. He listened to their pitch, then they told him that they needed cash to guarantee the shaky brokerage’s positions until a shareholder vote. Buffett had to leave, but told the bankers to fax the details of the lucrative deal to the hotel and he’d give them an answer.
He returned to his hotel that night and there was no fax. The deal went nowhere. It turned out that the bankers had left a voicemail on Buffett’s cellphone. But the Oracle of Omaha said he doesn’t use cellphones that often, and didn’t get the message until his daughter discovered it on his phone ten months later!
So there’s a lesson here. Don’t expect old rich guys to get cellphone messages; when they tell you to fax them, well, you better do it that way or you don’t get five billion in emergency bailout money.