It is 5am Sunday morning and I am on my way to Omaha to see Warren Buffett, one of the world's wealthiest men and most successful investors. His holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, has had an extraordinarily long run of success and a single share of its Class A stock is worth $143,500. This week Buffett has offered to backstop insurance companies weakened by the subprime loan mess, added to his Wells Fargo Bank holdings, and bought a big chunk of Kraft Foods. Not bad for a week's work.
Buffett has agreed to meet with UC Davis MBA students at his Omaha headquarters and 120 of them, along with finance Professor Brad Barber, are already in Nebraska. They have been preparing for this visit for weeks and there has been a real buzz of anticipation in the hallways and online. Warren Buffett is known as the Oracle of Omaha, a reference to his apparently otherworldly ability to pick winning investments. This trip has the feel of a journey to a charismatic, in the sociological sense of charisma - an otherworldly characteristic usually attributed to religious figures or those who are somehow "above" mere mortals, people such as Gandhi and the Dalai Lama. Visits to charismatics are both a tribute to their special gifts but also a desire to bask in their aura in hopes of transformation.
The ancients travelled to the Oracle at Delphi to seek wisdom and we are travelling to the Oracle of Omaha for - what? stock tips? an insight about economic trends? A chance to meet a wealthy man who gives most of his wealth away to philanthropy? We shall see what this Oracle has to teach.