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Warren Buffett Biography

The Influence of Benjamin Graham

By

Ben Graham - Buffett's Mentor (Continued)
Flying through his graduate studies at Columbia, Warren Buffett was the only student ever to earn an A+ in one of Graham's classes. Disappointingly. both Ben Graham and Warren's father advised him not to work on Wall Street after he graduated. Absolutely determined, Buffett offered to work for the Graham partnership for free. Ben turned him down. He preferred to hold his spots for Jews who were not hired at Gentile firms at the time. Warren was crushed.

Warren Buffett Returns Home

Returning home, he took a job at his father's brokerage house and began seeing a girl by the name of Susie Thompson. The relationship eventually turned serious and in April of 1952 the two were married. They rented out a three-room apartment for $65 a month; it was run-down and served as home to several mice. It was here their daughter, also named Susie, was born. In order to save money, they made a bed for her in a dresser drawer.

During these initial years, Warren's investments were predominately limited to a Texaco station and some real estate, but neither were successful. It was also during this time he began teaching night classes at the University of Omaha (something that wouldn't have been possible several months before. In an effort to conquer his intense fear of public speaking, Warren took a course by Dale Carnegie). Thankfully, things changed. Ben Graham called one day, inviting the young stockbroker to come to work for him. Warren was finally given the opportunity he had long awaited.

Warren Buffett Goes to Work for Ben Graham

The couple took a house in the suburbs of New York. Buffett spent his days analyzing S&P reports, searching for investment opportunities. It was during this time that the difference between the Graham and Buffett philosophies began to emerge. Warren became interested in how a company worked - what made it superior to competitors. Ben simply wanted numbers whereas Warren was predominately interested in a company's management as a major factor when deciding to invest, Graham looked only at the balance sheet and income statement; he could care less about corporate leadership. Between 1950 and 1956, Warren built his personal capital up to $140,000 from a mere $9,800. With this war chest, he set his sights back on Omaha and began planning his next move.

On May 1, 1956, Warren Buffett rounded up seven limited partners which included his Sister Doris and Aunt Alice, raising $105,000 in the process. He put in $100 himself, officially creating the Buffett Associates, Ltd. Before the end of the year, he was managing around $300,000 in capital. Small, to say the least, but he had much bigger plans for that pool of money. He purchased a house for $31,500, affectionately nicknamed "Buffett's Folly", and managed his partnerships originally from the bedroom, and later, a small office. By this time, his life had begun to take shape; he had three children, a beautiful wife, and a very successful business.

Over the course of the next five years, the Buffett partnerships racked up an impressive 251.0% profit, while the Dow was up only 74.3%. A somewhat-celebrity in his hometown, Warren never gave stock tips despite constant requests from friends and strangers alike. By 1962, the partnership had capital in excess of $7.2 million, of which a cool $1 million was Buffett's personal stake (he didn't charge a fee for the partnership - rather Warren was entitled to 1/4 of the profits above 4%). He also had more than 90 limited partners across the United States. In one decisive move, he melded the partnerships into a single entity called "Buffett Partnerships Ltd.", upped the minimum investment to $100,000, and opened an office in Kiewit Plaza on Farnam street.

In 1962, a man by the name of Charlie Munger moved back to his childhood home of Omaha from California. Though somewhat snobbish, Munger was brilliant in every sense of the word. He had attended Harvard Law School without a Bachelor's Degree. Introduced by mutual friends, Buffett and Charlie were immediately drawn together, providing the roots for a friendship and business collaboration that would last for the next forty years.

Ten years after its founding, the Buffett Partnership assets were up more than 1,156% compared to the Dow's 122.9%. Acting as lord over assets that had ballooned to $44 million dollars, Warren and Susie's personal stake was $6,849,936. Mr. Buffett, as they say, had arrived.

Wisely enough, just as his persona of success was beginning to be firmly established, Warren Buffett closed the partnership to new accounts. The Vietnam war raged full force on the other side of the world and the stock market was being driven up by those who hadn't been around during the depression. All while voicing his concern for rising stock prices, the partnership pulled its biggest coup in 1968, recording a 59.0% gain in value, catapulting to over $104 million in assets.

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