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April 14, 2010 > After The Dance is Over

After The Dance is Over

Submitted By Lila Bringhurst

On a recent cold and raining evening a group of local residents gathered at the invitation of Fremont Bank in their carefully restored brick bank building in the Niles District of Fremont. The honored guest was Mary Buffett, mother of three of Warren Buffett's grandchildren, twin girls Erica and Nicole and a boy named Sam. A California businesswoman, her world was forever changed in 1981 after a whirlwind courtship and marriage to Peter Buffett, third child of one of the richest men in the world.

During the ensuing years she developed a warm relationship with her mother-in-law, observed the everyday life of the family and learned investment strategies from her father-in-law.

"Warren Buffett made his entire fortune in the stock market," she declared, "and I sat at the master's feet."

After twelve years of marriage she went through a divorce and suddenly found herself besieged by literary agents urging her to "tell all" about the family. Instead she teamed up with David Clark, a long-time friend of the Buffett family, to write "Buffettology" which was published in 1997 and is a classic on Warren Buffett's investment strategies. They have since co-authored several other award winning, business-oriented books including their latest, "Warren Buffett's Management Secrets," published by Simon and Schuster.

As the warm, gracious and investment-savvy authoress spoke, she stood in front of a plaque honoring Morris Hyman, a founder of Fremont Bank, a local financial genius and philanthropist. For those in the audience who knew Hyman, the parallel between his life and Warren Buffett's differed only in scale. Both were self-made men. Hyman grew up in Natchez, Mississippi and gravitated to California after his service in the U. S. Army during World War II.

Buffett was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, where he still lives. They each had three children. Morris and Alvirda Hyman had Hattie, Howard and Alan; Warren and Susan Buffett had Susan, Howard and Peter.

They were each blessed with wonderful mentors. Hyman often acknowledged his admiration for Judge Edward Quaresma, who was once his law firm partner. Buffett enrolled at Columbia Business School where he studied under Benjamin Graham. Both men are known for their integrity, their frugality and their generosity.

After briefly outlining Buffett's early years and first investments, Mary Buffett said he taught her that to invest in the stock market you need patience and discipline. When thinking about an investment, you need to purge yourself of emotion. When evaluating a stock, you need to look for predictable profits, branded products, a service or product that does not change over time and/or a low cost provider of a service or product.

She depicted Buffett as a man who believes in people, who praises in public and criticizes in private "by category." A man who does not believe in inherited wealth because it stunts a lot of people's growth. Buffett is a voracious reader who loves work and calls his office his "pleasure dome."

During the question and answer session, Ms. Buffett fielded questions ranging from what Buffett ate for breakfast to sophisticated inquiries about complicated transactions. She answered them all with competence, candor and a little humor. She occasionally gave a glimpse into the private lives of the family but, in an era of tell all and expose all, she was a respectful breath of fresh air.

She closed her remarks with a favorite quotation from her ex-father-in-law and mentor, "It is easier to stay out of trouble than it is to get out of trouble."

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