Speaking of Rockefeller, some comparison
can be drawn as to the partnership of
Rockefeller and Henry Flagler, who together
built Standard Oil. Similarly, it was Buffett
and Charles Munger who together built
Two years in the making, the story moves
along largely in Buffett’s own words. The film
features never-before-released home videos,
family photos, archival footage, and inter-
views with family and friends.
The show traces Buffett’s rise from his
childhood investing in the stock market to
his exalted spot as one of the most influential
businessmen in the world. It includes profes-
sional milestones from his saving Salomon
Brothers after its bond trading scandal in the
early 1990s to personal ones like the loss of
his first wife Susie. Further,
the movie tracks Buffett’s path
to Columbia Business School
where his teacher Ben Graham
was a major influence on him.
His partnership with Munger
is recounted as are Buffett’s
efforts to transform a strug-
gling textile mill into a huge
company with holdings in
stocks, bonds, cash, and insur-
“I like numbers,” Buffett
says in the movie to a group of
t was inevitable—yes, a full-length feature about the life and times of
America’s financial genius, Warren Buffett.
An HBO press release annnouncing the documentary, directed by Peter
Kunhardt, called him "truly a one-of-a-kind billionaire. With a net worth of
more than $60 billion, the legendary investor, now 86, still lives in a modest
home in Omaha, and continues to drive himself to the office every morning to
manage Berkshire Hathaway, the fourth largest public company in the world.
But more surprising than his humble lifestyle and self-effacing personality are
Buffett’s moral integrity and unique mind, which drove him not only to
become the most successful businessman in the world, but also an unparalleled
HBO continued, “With unprecedented access to his day-to-day personal
life, ‘Becoming Warren Buffett’ tells the improbable story of how an ambitious,
numbers-obsessed boy from Nebraska became one of the richest, most-
respected men in the world.''
The movie premiered on January 19, 2017, in New York at the Museum of
Modern Art (MOMA). Coincidentally, MOMA was founded by Abby Aldrich
Rockefeller (1874-1948), wife of John D. Rockefeller Jr., the richest man of his
time whom Buffett has now far surpassed. After adjusting for inflation,
Rockefeller’s peak worth of $900 million in 1913 would be a mere $22 billion
in today’s dollars. A pittance compared to the Buffett fortune.
Museum of Modern Art
The well-known Museum
of Modern Art (MOMA)
in New York was the locale
for the debut of the HBO
movie "Becoming Warren
Buffett" on January 19,
2017. About 450 invitees
watched the premiere
which ran for an hour and
MOMA as Movie Theater
Buffett himself walked through this door with members of
his family, greeted people, met with the press, sat in the
audience, and watched the movie. Afterwards he greeted
attendees for well over an hour before flying home.
This is the poster put out by HBO to announce its
(Photos by Pat Kilpatrick)
Star of the Show
Coke in hand, the movie star himself talked with
guests late into the night after the movie aired.
Buffett had come from a round of business talks,
greeted dozens of people, and watched the movie
before heading home to Omaha to meet with a visit-
ing group of students. The Wall Street Journal (January
21-22, 2017) reported that Buffett and AIG CEO
Peter Hancock had met for lunch earlier that day.
AIG announced a $9.8 billion reinsurance deal with
Berkshire early the next morning.
013017 The Story of Warren Buffett
BUFFETT THE MOVIE
Omaha Central High School students. “It started before I can remember.” The
film goes on to say how, as a seven-year-old, he read a library book called One
Thousand Ways to Make $1000 and how he earned money selling Coca-Cola,
gum, and newspapers.
Before the release of the movie, Buffett’s fortune had risen to more than $70
billion (more than $100 billion if his charitable gifts are included) as Berkshire
stock soared to $250,000 in late 2016.
The film’s first trailer opened with the billionaire
picking up fast food at a drive-through window where
he ordered a sausage McMuffin with egg and cheese
for $2.95 and passed up the $3.17 bacon, egg and
cheese biscuit. He explains: “The market is down this
morning, so I think I’ll pass up the $3.17 and go for
the $2.95." Frugal, yes. No wonder one of his license
plates said “Thrifty.”
Among those interviewed in the movie were
Buffett’s longtime friends Charles Munger, Bill Gates,
and Carol Loomis, who had a half-century career
with Fortune magazine. In 2006, Buffett announced
he was giving the vast portion of his fortune to the
HBO also made a documentary about Star Wars’
Carrie Fisher and her legendary mother Debbie
Reynolds. After their sudden back-to-back deaths,
HBO aired that show on January 7, 2017, earlier than
planned. The “Singin’ in the
Rain” star Ms. Reynolds was no
stranger to Buffett. She
attended two Berkshire annual
meetings in the early 2000s.
After meeting Buffett in 1999 when she was performing
with the Omaha Symphony, she became a Berkshire
shareholder. Buffett later invited her to the annual meet-
ings and other events as well.
“We had a couple of great dinners together,” Buffett
said. (Omaha World-Herald, January 2, 2017). She was
interested in Buffett’s ideas about investing at a time when she was watching
her own finances. “I know show business, but I don’t know business business,”
she was quoted in a 2001 interview (Omaha World-Herald, January 2, 2017).
Buffett’s first wife Susie was featured prominently in the movie. He has said
she was a great influence on him in a number of ways. She made him more
aware of civil rights issues, charitable endeavors, and he said “rounded” him as
a person from his near total focus on business. At one point in the movie,
Buffett is photographed reading while his three children play in the room.
Family members, including Mrs. Buffett (from comments taken from an earlier
interview with Charlie Rose), said Buffett was “physically” present at home but
often his deep thoughts took him elsewhere.
One question that Buffett didn't wish to answer was what his last words to
his father were.
Reportedly, Buffett agreed to help with the movie to honor his father and
first wife Susie, whom he felt had never received full credit.
The movie showed Buffett teaching a class at Omaha’s Central High School
where he shows his humor as well as his honesty when he tells the students
when he was their age, he was really “bad” at dating. But at the same time, he
was inspirational in his message about taking good care of the one mind and
one body that each of us is given—they must “last a lifetime.”
Buffett himself arrived at the premiere simply by walking through the front
door of MOMA with family members. No sirens. No entourage. He dove into
the evening’s gala shaking hands with some of the 450 people he personally
invited as well as those invited by HBO or the Kunhardt family. The press,
ranging from the Wall Street Journal to Page Six/New York Post to People, were
present with lots of questions about Trump. Buffett, a well-known Hillary
Clinton backer, said he “overwhelmingly” supported Trump’s cabinet picks.
Often Buffett has said that regardless of party, “Don’t bet against America.”
CBS’s Lesley Stahl and former Fortune writer Carol Loomis were in house.
Well-known Berkshire luminaries such as GEICO’s Tony Nicely and Ajit Jain,
Berkshire's insurance guru, were predictably on hand. Big names such as
American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault to tennis great
Billie Jean King were present and accounted for. Other
invitees were HBO’s CEO Richard Plepler, who intro-
duced the movie, Gloria Steinem; and “Breaking Bad”
creator Vince Gilligan. President of the Council on
Foreign Relations Richard Haass also attended.
The movie received a standing ovation. Buffett ended
his role by saying physically he was depreciating, adding
that, “I’m getting down to salvage value.”
Hardly. The party resumed in the main room well into
the night with Buffett chatting, shaking hands, and hugging friends. His day
finally came to an end when his NetJets flight touched down after midnight in
the fog and cold of Omaha.
Of Permanent Value Buffett the Movie
Peter Kunhardt worked at
ABC News for 10 years
before joining with other
family members to start his
own Kunhardt Productions
in 1987. He has produced
other documentaries fea-
turing Richard Nixon,
Oprah Winfrey, P.T.
Barnum, Gloria Steinem,
Abraham Lincoln and his
wife, Mary Todd Lincoln as
well as John, Robert, and