It was 1966 when Buffett went to see Walt Disney, a story recounted in Glen Arnold’s new book, “The Deals of Warren Buffett” (JVG Books, $35, 259 pages).
He said he considered private work at the Texas capital “incidental” to his commission duties on the same trips and not a conflict of interest. He said the department had reviewed its payments and determined they were appropriate because of his work for the agency during the trips.
Buffett figured Disney was worth $300 million or $400 million, far above the market value of about $80 million at the time. Most investors, Buffett said, “ignored it because it was so familiar. But that happens periodically on Wall Street.”
“The film library alone was worth the purchase price,” Arnold wrote, and Disney had more cash than debt.
Abel’s duties, on the other hand, expand significantly from overseeing the important energy division. And Buffett gets considerable relief from the work he has created for himself by acquiring dozens of big businesses over the years.
He had billed the agency about $200 in mileage per trip and between $225 and $275 a day for lodging, meals, parking and taxes while staying overnight, the Tribune reported. The commissioners are paid $16,000 a year to serve on the state’s transportation board.
In the CNBC interview, Buffett was at times almost giddy at the prospect of giving up management duties. Putting Abel in charge of Berkshire’s non-insurance businesses gives Buffett something he says is the only thing he wants that he can’t buy: time.
Disney’s “Mary Poppins” movie had been a big success, but Wall Street didn’t see anything else in the pipeline and worried that the stock price might decline. Buffett realized that even if there were no new Disney movies, “Poppins” could be re-released and make even more money in the future.
If you bought Union Pacific Railroad last year, he said, you would own 100 percent of the company, but the U.S. government gets 35 percent of the profit, the former top corporate tax rate.