Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Roger Lowenstein on Kay Graham and Warren Buffett

I just finished Roger Lowenstein's fun, anecdotal biography of Warren Buffett (Lowenstein is also known for his brief history of the 1998 Long Term Capital Management collapse, When Genius Failed). Some of the best bits are about Katharine Graham, whom Buffett befriended before, during, and after his acquisition of a large stake in the Washington Post. From one entertaining passage:
When Buffett talked Graham into visiting Omaha, he knew that she hadn't the faintest idea of where it was, and decided to poke some fun at her. When they got on the plane he asked her to draw a map of the United States, and to mark the location of Omaha. The map was so awful that he grabbed for it, intending to stash it as a keepsake, but Graham nimbly tore it to shreds.
At one VIP dinner, a birthday party for Graham, Malcolm Forbes, the publisher-cum-cultural connoisseur, brought a fancy wine that had been bottled the year she was born, and that he intimated had cost him plenty. When the waiter got to Buffett, the Pepsi drinker stopped him. "No thanks," he said, putting a hand over his glass. "I'll take the cash."

Graham told her cook to make hamburgers when Buffett was in town, and stocked her Manhattan apartment with Buffett's favorites--greasy peanuts and strawberry ice cream. "When he arrived," she said with reflexive snobbery, "it was only cheeseburgers and fried--what do you call them?--french fries, all of it doused with salt."

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