Those who have met him swear the conversation was laugh-a-minute and those who have watched him from afar vouch for his rationality. We have had the privilege of both. The world may know Warren Edward Buffett as a legendary investor but history could well remember him as an astute philanthropist. For, when it was time to give it all, his rationality and capital allocation acumen were again at the fore. Buffett’s genius is amply demonstrated in his decision to give away the bulk of his fortune to someone with scale and substantial skin in the game.
Buffett does not want his name on university buildings, hospital wings or commemorative monuments. Material indulgences have never fascinated him but the challenge of the chase has, and he was relentless till all the boxes were ticked. Make no mistake, though: he still wants to win. Even as he continues to learn furiously at the age of 83, the great man wants the world to remember him as a teacher. And he has been one — through his investment style, his writings, his annual meetings, the time that he spends with college students and the way he has lived his life. In this exclusive interview with N Mahalakshmi and Rajesh Padmashali, the Oracle of Omaha talks about why giving away his fortune was the rational thing to do.
When you were 20-something, you decided along with your wife that once your needs were met, you would give your wealth back to society. Where did that clarity come from, at such a young age?
It is hard to tell because you are formed by everything that you read and hear from your parents and all that sort of thing. I certainly read a book by Abraham Flexner when I was in my 20s but it seemed like a natural instinct. I really thought I was going to make a lot of money. My wife didn’t believe me, she didn’t care (about the money). It just seemed very logical and interestingly enough, just last night, I was with the directors of the foundation she and I set up (Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation — formerly The Buffett Foundation). It is having its 50th anniversary this year. We set that up in 1964. That was when we actually started a foundation and originally that’s the foundation, until she died, everything was going to.
I don’t remember exactly when we first talked about it. But it was when we were in