Warren Buffett and I had lunch together on Friday!
We were joined by several hundred other clients, partners and guests of Business Wire -- all invited to lunch at the New York Stock Exchange and the chance to see and hear the "Oracle of Omaha" in person. The occasion was the 50th anniversary of Business Wire, a Berkshire Hathaway Company, the global leader in press release distribution and regulatory disclosure. The day was marked with a proclamation by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg making September 30, 2011 "Business Wire Day" and a smart news release chronicling highlights of the company's history and numerous industry firsts.
The company's senior management team talked about the evolution of the company and its services both on stage and in a fast-paced and engaging video, "50 Years of Innovation," that provided a great historical perspective.
Leading up to its 50th anniversary (officially Oct. 7), Business Wire held a "Future of Public Relations and Communications" college video contest challenging full-time college students to submit short videos answering the question "What is the future of public relations and communications?" 21-year-old Jenna Marie James (photo/left at podium), a senior majoring in telecommunications at Ball State University in Indiana, was the winner of the contest. Her prize package included a trip to New York (her first) to meet and have lunch with "Warren" -- as well as to speak at the luncheon (preceding Warren). Her video is refreshing, creative and engaging -- I strongly recommend you view it!
And then, it was Warren's turn. He was "interviewed" on stage by Business Wire President & CEO Cathy Baron Tamraz followed by questions from the audience. What's amazing is his mental acuity at age 81 and ability to go from questions on the stock market to investor relations to communications to business in China and politics without missing a beat.
His answers were peppered with facts, figures, dates and plain spoken clarity not typical of most captains of business. He ... and Cathy... spoke about the period Berkshire Hathaway purchased Business Wire (following a "sales" letter he received from Cathy).
One questioner wanted to know how long the recession would last. Warren talked about the housing market and housing starts as the key indicator given their direct importance and ripple effect on the economy. Another questioner asked about governance in Washington. Warren indicated the problem was neither party was governing and instead all were obsessed about their re-election prospects rather than doing the right thing for the people. He brought a chuckle to the room when responding to a question about President Obama's proposed millionare's tax. "I"m not so sure it's good to have a tax named after you," he mused.
No matter how long and nuanced the answers to the questions, he always circled back and answered each question fully. It was an awe-inspiring performance of a genuine business leader, straight talker and straight shooter.
My thanks to Sarah Shepard, a former colleague and director of sales, NY Region at Business Wire for inviting me to this sophisticated celebration.
P.S. The menu was an appetizer of candied walnut, gorgonzola and mesculun salad with sherry walnut dressing; choice of pan seared French cut chicken breast with rosemary jus or pan seared sea bass with gingered pineapple and papaya (my selection) and New York style cheesecake.