Monday, March 07, 2005

One of my many peccadilloes is that I try not to read the Wall Street Journal. Yes, I know it's a great paper, and yes, I'm aware it has a different business model than the other major dailies. But a) it really bothers me that they make you pay for their internet site, and b) their little dot-portrait things really creep me out. (Don't ask.)

Today, however, I caved. Call it fate or destiny or what have you, but there on the seat next to me during my morning flight was a copy of WSJ Europe. And much to my chagrin, buried in the "What's News" section of the frontpage, I even discovered a rather interesting lede:
Berkshire Hathaway earnings fell 10% last year to $7.31 billion, though fourth-quarter results were strong. Chairman Warren Buffett blamed himself for the decline in 2004.
The story caught my eye for a rather simple reason: when was the last time a major corporate or political leader blamed themselves for organizational failure? I'm sure there are other examples, but nobody of Buffett's stature immediately springs to mind.

And further, since when does $7 billion-plus even warrant blame? Those kind of earnings would make Buffett's apology almost comical if it weren't so obviously earnest.

All of which reminds me: the whole reason I started this post in the first place was actually in relation to two earlier ones on the World Bank's executive search.

After reading the article on Buffett's annual shareholder letter, my thought is that the Bank's board might want to stop flirting with HP-bust Carli Fiorina and consider making inquiries over at Berkshire's headquarters instead.

Granted, I doubt Buffett would even want the job, and I also imagine that the sheer volume of cash he has tied up in currencies would present a significant conflict of interest. But still. Who else has so dramatically demonstrated that increasing wealth and acting responsibly are thoroughly compatible?


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