Monday, February 18, 2008

The Invitation

Two years ago I received an inquiry from warren Buffett's office. Mr Buffett would be in the Sacramento area and he would like to speak to area business students. Would that be possible?

We hosted a visit from a Berkshire Hathaway aide and negotiations ensued; a date and place were decided upon, and we envisioned hosting the Oracle of Omaha at the 1700-seat Mondavi Center on campus.. The dream didn't last long though: a schedule change forced cancellation of Buffett's visit and we could not reschedule.

We were given a consolation prize, however. Mr. Buffett would be opening a new RC Willey furniture store in the area in a few months and several of us would be invited to meet Mr. Buffett at the opening. Would we care to attend? We would.

The store opening took place in the summer when students were generally working so our party for the ribbon cutting included me, a few business people, and a couple of faculty members. We were lighthearted as we approached the large cement tilt-up building and were directed to the rear inventory stocking area where Mr Buffett was greeting visitors.

And there he was, apparently having a great time joking and shaking hands amidst stacked furniture. What was I doing shaking hands with a multi-billionaire in a furniture warehouse? What's more, what was he doing?

The scene was so incongruous as to make one smile. The atmosphere was funny and festive. Warren (I now felt I could call him by his first name) handed me his wallet for a photo op but whisked it away before I could hang on. He gave stock tips like candy and generally seemed to be enjoying himself fully.

That could have been the end of it but Assistant Professor of Finance Katrina Ellis wrote to Warren asking if she could bring students to meet him in Omaha if he couldn't come to Davis.

A letter came inviting 40 students to meet Mr. Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway headquarters in February 2007.

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