Berkshire Hathaway has a problem. No, it isn’t their “Official Home Page” website that looks like it was designed by a third-grader in 1991 — note the ubiquitous link to Geico insurance in the footer; and no, it isn’t the choice of using standard “visited links” color as the active “UN-visited links” color default, either — the Berkshire Hathaway problem is actually one of moral decay in the falsely avuncular personality and faked “Aw, shucks” leadership style of Warren Buffet.
I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska under the shadowy umbrella of Berkshire in Omaha. I also vaguely remember a report from the mists of time announcing that, since a single share of Berkshire Hathaway stock was selling for something like $64,000.00, Warren was doing all the poor people of the world a favor by issuing “Baby B” b-stock — “Baby Berkshire” — for something like a measly $14,000.00USD a share so everyone could get in on the bargain!
Unfortunately for Warren Buffet, we now live in Bernie Madoff times — and when your self-anointed replacement, David Sokol, goes behind your back and shills his own deal using your reputation as a fire suit against the inevitable blowback — welp, you’ve got yourself a real good problem, old friend.
Fuddy Duddyism only goes so far in the mainstream cult of personality, and Warren Buffet can no long demand that people just “trust him” on anything anymore because Sokol singlehandedly ruined that reputation and opportunity. Buffet, now 80-years-old, is in a tough place of his own making because he made the worst sort of bet on David Sokol that is now paying him back in backlash and derision — and there is rightly no escape from that public punishment and social scorn.
The moment for Buffet to take back control of Berkshire Hathaway’s most valuable asset — its inherent goodness and morality — was the instant of Sokol’s confession. That moment was lost in a genial, hillbilly-like-we-are-family cover-up that didn’t play well then and will never make any future sense.
In a single instant, Warren Buffet called into question a lifetime of achievement and traded it all in for a never ending miasma at the hands of his so-called successor.