In May 2006, Charlie Rose interviewed Warren Buffett’s wife, Susie. In the middle of the interview he asked her, “What will Warren’s greatest legacy be? She didn’t blink an eye. “His shareholder letters.” she replied.
I cheered when I heard this. I couldn’t have agreed more. Anyone who has ever read a Berkshire Hathaway letter knows they are unlike most other CEO letters. In fact, inspired by Buffett’s letter, I developed a model to help me to identify other CEOs who communicated like Buffett.
But I was puzzled too. Think of Buffett’s other accomplishments: turning Berkshire Hathaway from a struggling textile manufacturing company into one of the most respected and highly valued companies in the world. Think of his example of philanthropy – giving away the bulk of his fortune to the world’s poorest people. Consider all the early investors in Berkshire who became philanthropists themselves. So why would Susie cite her husband’s shareholder letters?
I was captivated by this mystery. In writing Buffett’s Bites, the answer grew increasingly clear to me: the principles in her husband’s letters form a blueprint for capitalism in the 21st century. That is a great legacy.