Warren Buffett issued a "modest mea culpa" to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway this weekend, saying he "made a big mistake" in his dealings with a disgraced former lieutenant once seen as his likely successor. The executive, David Sokol, bought $10 million in shares of Lubrizol, a chemical firm he then pitched to Buffett as an attractive company for Berkshire Hathaway to take over. Buffett bought the company for $9 billion, and Sokol came away with a $3 million profit on his shares. After his questionable investments came to light, Sokol abruptly resigned in March. Buffett initially defended Sokol, but this weekend, admitted that Sokol's actions were "inexplicable and inexcusable." (Sokol insists he did nothing wrong.) The 80-year-old Buffett says the incident won't permanently mar his reputation. Is he right?
Buffett's "mystique is gone": The "Oracle of Omaha's crystal ball is forever tarnished," says Alain Sherter at BNET. Buffett had famously said, "Lose money for the firm, and I will be understanding; lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless." But now he's broken his own rule. The man who had been known as a "straight-shooting gazillionaire" is now "indelibly stained," and the Sokol scandal will come to be seen "as marking the final days of the cult of Buffett."
"The Sokol affair: How Warren Buffett killed 'Warren Buffett'"
Don't bet against Buffett: This isn't the first time people have questioned Buffett's thinking or written him off as an "idiot," says James Altucher at MarketWatch. But I'd "never bet against a guy who has consistently made money for about 60 years in a row and has survived every crisis thrown at him." When people are wondering if Buffett has "finally lost his touch," it's a good "time to reach into my wallet" and start buying whatever he's buying, because it won't be long before people are back to calling him a "genius" again.
"Warren Buffett is the smartest idiot I know"
This is just who Warren is: The same management style that made Buffett "one of the most admired business leaders in history" also "opened the way for a breach like this to happen," says Saki Kanfo in The Huffington Post. Buffett trusts his managers. That has gotten him into trouble before, and it got him into trouble with Sokol. But hey, it's "possible that if he were to adopt a more cautious approach, he wouldn't be nearly as successful as he is."
"Warren Buffett's mistake: How the saint of capitalism damaged his reputation"