Chain Reactions

I had lunch with Warren Buffett the other day

Okay, it wasn't *just* me and Warren Buffett (although on the name-dropper scale, that headline has to rank pretty high up there for sheer pretentiousness). In fact, there were a number of other journalists in the room, situated in the new Hyatt Conference Center next to the McCormick Place complex in Chicago. Buffett's appearance was courtesy of Iscar, a metalworking company recently purchased by Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett's company. Iscar was an exhibitor at the massive International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS 2006), which was expected to draw 85,000 people over the course of a week. Berkshire Hathaway paid $5 billion for 80% of the international company, headquartered in Israel.

When asked why Berkshire would invest in a so-called "traditional" manufacturing company like Iscar rather than a high-tech company, Buffett explained, "I don't understand where high-tech companies are going to be or what they'll look like in 10 years, but I've got a pretty good idea what Iscar will look like." Iscar, he added, is typical of the types of companies that Berkshire looks for because it does something that is "fundamentally important."

Buffett went on to add that, when it comes to acquiring companies, "I look for unusually good businesses run by unusually good people. I want companies that are run by achievers who are always trying to get better."

Given the recent change in senior management at Ford, Buffett was asked what he thought about the automotive industry. "I've got three boxes on my desk, labeled, IN, OUT and TOO HARD. The automotive industry is in the TOO HARD box."

TAGS: Supply Chain
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