has grown into a massive conglomerate with operations spanning
from railroads to energy. However, one of the biggest questions
about the company now is, "Would shareholders be better off with
Buffett broke up the company into small parts?"
To find some answers, Motley Fool analyst David Hanson
recently sat down with Larry Cunningham, the author of
Warren Buffett himself said of the book, "Larry Cunningham has
done a great job at collating our philosophy." Cunningham also
has a new book coming out this fall, titled
The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for
The book explores Berkshire's ability to live on after Buffett.
In the following video, Cunningham explains why Berkshire is
structured the way it is and whether or not other companies
should try and replicate this structure. Cunningham also points
Berkshire Beyond Buffett: The Enduring Value of
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A full transcript follows.
You hear the arguments that "Berkshire could be worth more if we
split it apart; it's hard to value in its current form." On the
structure of Berkshire and how Buffett built that partnership,
there was a question at the annual meeting this year that said,
"Why has no one else done this?"
Do you think other companies should try to structure
themselves like Berkshire, or is it so unique with someone like
Buffett and Munger at the top that it almost shouldn't be
replicated because most people wouldn't have the discipline and
the values to run it in a good way?
That's a great question. I would have two observations on
One is, it's true. The first sentence of the book is,
"Berkshire Hathaway is an accident." No one planned it out.
Warren didn't plan it this way, Charlie didn't plan it this way.
There was never any planning. So, for a person who sat down today
and said, "Let me start a company. Let me follow this approach,"
I'm not sure that that will work because, right away, you're not
following that approach, because you're planning it that way.
This was not planned. This just happened.
What was true, though, is that they had a set of values and a
set of principles and a cultural appetite that resulted in a
collection of companies of the sort that we see. To that extent,
emulating the values, embracing the principles, seeing how they
can work, could be quite useful.
In fact, in the last chapter of the book, I draw out some of
the business lessons, management lessons, investment lessons,
entrepreneurial lessons from the 50 subsidiaries, and show how
these values are enormously appealing and profitable. So you
don't need to say, "I'd like to build a Berkshire" to learn and
gain from the message, from the content.
The second observation I would make is that it's not entirely
true that there isn't anything else like this. There are actually
quite a few people who have sat down and consciously decided,
"I'm going to follow this."
My favorite example I mentioned in the book is the Markel
Corporation, out of Richmond, Virginia nearby The Motley Fool,
where Tom Gayner, the President and Chief Investment Officer,
bought for that company Berkshire stock in 1995 and has increased
the position significantly.
That company -- it's a third-generation insurance company
primarily -- but since about that time it has also acquired about
a dozen, maybe a little more, operating companies in a variety of
industries; manufacturing, business services, and other things.
It's got a lot of similarities to the Berkshire approach,
including the most important, which is a sense of permanence.
They have made a commitment to their subsidiaries that they're
never going to sell them, either. I applaud Tom and Markel.
I, myself, I don't think I would do that, necessarily -- sit
down and say, "I'm going to build something just like that" --
because I do think the personality matters, and your own stamp is
going to go on your business, and so on. But a lot of the values
and a lot of the attributes associated with these businesses are
appealing, intrinsically, to me, and I think to many people.
The book also showed that they're also profitable. That's the
sense of the subtitle,
The Value of Values
. So, I wouldn't say anybody should say, "I want to build the
next Berkshire," but to get -- from these operating companies
especially, some of the sense of entrepreneurship, loyalty,
integrity, vision, and so on -- could be enormously valuable for
people, I think.
Should Everyone Try to Be Like Billionaire Warren
originally appeared on Fool.com.
owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and Markel. The Motley Fool
recommends Berkshire Hathaway and Markel. The Motley Fool owns
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