> Warren Buffett Blog: Warren Buffett sells his old car for 20 times the book value

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Warren Buffett sells his old car for 20 times the book value

The 2006 Cadillac with only 20,000 miles on the odometer, was buzzing through Illinois, USA on the way from Omaha to New York City, with no license plates.

An Illinois police officer spotted it and pulled it over.

“I know we’re driving without plates, but this is the story,” the driver explained. He had bought the car from Warren Buffett for $122,500 in a charity auction and had just picked it up in Omaha. He showed the bill of sale and the title, transferred from Buffett to him, and Buffett’s signature on the dashboard.

“It was too late to get temporary plates,” the car buyer told me in a telephone interview. He spoke on the condition that he not be identified. “So we just drove it back to New York.”

The officer called for backup. Soon two policemen approached the formerly Buffett-owned Cadillac.

“Did you actually get to meet Mr. Buffett?” one asked, according to the buyer’s recollection.

“Yes, he was very generous with his time,” the driver said. “He spent over an hour with us at his office.”

“Does Warren think the economy’s going to be OK?” the officer asked.

“Yes, he seems to think things are going OK.”

The two officers smiled and nodded.

“OK, we’ll give you a warning, and thank you very much.”

It was a pleasant finale to a trip that “exceeded our wildest expectations,” said the mystery car buyer, a New York City money manager who built his career by following Buffett’s investment ideas.

Buffett had bought a new Cadillac and donated his old one to Girls Inc., a program for young women, for an online auction in March, promising to hand over the keys to the buyer in person.

The money manager didn’t need the car but wanted to meet Buffett and thank him for his investment philosophy, his philanthropy and his emphasis on ethical business practices. He has attended Berkshire Hathaway Inc. shareholder meetings for nearly 25 years, sometimes with his sons, ages 19 and 22.

This time, he brought his wife, his sons and his mother along for the late-afternoon appointment with Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire.

Buffett gave them a tour of company headquarters and then invited them into his corner office.

“He talked with my sons about choosing a career and how important long-term friendships are,” the man said. “We didn’t talk a lot about investments per se. We talked about the importance of having a positive outlook and enjoying what you’re doing.”

Inside the office, “the phone never rang the whole time we were there. He was never interrupted. I said, ‘Is it always this quiet?’ And he said, ‘Basically, yes.’ ”

Buffett took them downstairs to hand over the keys. The man started up the Cadillac and saw that the gas gauge was down one-quarter.

“Warren, for $122,500 I do expect a full tank of gas,” he said. They all laughed.