October 5, 2005

Buffett, Gates visit UNL

Article on the gates / Buffett visit to University of nebraska. Some excerpts below

By Dick Piersol
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, left, and billionaire investor Warren Buffett participate in a question and answer session with students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Business Administration, Friday, Sept. 30, 2005. (AP)
Lincoln Journal StarAs recollections of Tommy Lee’s visit fade like a cheap tattoo, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln refreshed its celebrity appeal on Friday with an appearance by the goalposts of capitalism.The world’s two richest beings — Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates, a Harvard dropout, and his bridge-playing buddy Warren Buffett, the investment industry’s biggest rocker, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and a UNL grad — communed with business students at the Lied Center.
In a two-hour question-and-answer session to be televised next year by NET, the Nebraska public television network, the wealthiest of America’s good ole boys answered unscripted questions in a relaxed setting for an audience of about 1,800, mostly students from the UNL College of Business Administration.The university warmed up and amused the audience with filmed introductions: TV’s Judge Judy adjudicated a disputed $2 bet between the two moguls she described as “elderly delinquents.” California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ran Buffett through enforced calisthenics. And entertainer Jimmy Buffett performed a vocal duet of “Ain’t She Sweet,” with the richer Buffett on ukulele.Then the featured guests got down to business, starting with ethics in business during challenging times, how they enforce their own sense of integrity in their organizations and ranging beyond to a variety of topics.Buffett said he sends a letter every couple of years to 40 or so Berkshire company managers to let them know they can afford to lose money but not their reputation.“I ask them how they would feel about any given action if it were to be written up in the local newspaper by a smart but pretty unfriendly reporter,” Buffett said.Nobody in the friendly audience asked about Berkshire’s latest brushes with the law, for example, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s September notice to Berkshire that the SEC is considering civil charges against Joseph Brandon, chief executive of Berkshire’s General Re, for potential violations of securities law.Questions ranged then to public policy, specifically the income tax, and whether it ought to be flattened.

One student asked what field of work the two might have chosen if they were 20 years old again.Gates answered medical science and biology. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has devoted billions of dollars to solving health problems in developing nations.Buffett chose journalism, and said in a sense, he is a reporter.“I assign myself a story, what is this company worth and why?” he said. Buffett owns a big piece of the Washington Post and told the audience his parents met at the university when his father was editor of the Daily Nebraskan. His mother was the daughter of an editor.

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