Stanley Bing

Pick me, Mr. Buffett

Fortune's Stanley Bing says he's just the man Warren Buffett is looking for.

By Stanley Bing, Fortune contributor

(Fortune Magazine) -- Dear Mr. Buffett:

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It is with a powerful mixture of executive humility and pride that I hereby apply for the position of chief investment officer of Berkshire Hathaway. You have indicated in your annual report that you are seeking a younger person to help manage your august firm's many wise and scrupulous investments, with an eye toward a transition that will place this fortunate individual in charge of the entire war chest: $61 billion in equity investments, $28 billion in fixed-income securities, and cash holdings of $43 billion at the end of the year just past. The weight of managing those assets will, I recognize, be awesome in its dimension and scope.

Let's look at the qualifications you articulate - and how I fill the bill in all regards. First, the issue of age. I am indeed significantly younger than you, sir, as well as many years the junior of your highly regarded nominal successor - Mr. Lou Simpson, 70, who manages the investments of your subsidiary Geico. You make the point, I believe, that Mr. Simpson has done quite well in the service of his company, but that money alone has not been his objective. You are looking for an individual made "of the same stuff." I assure you, I am full of such stuff. In fact, I am willing to state right here, in this public forum, that I would be willing to take Mr. Simpson's compensation package right now, no questions asked.

Next, there is your quest to find "someone genetically programmed to avoid serious risks, including those never before encountered." This description fits me to a tee. I have always been physically quite cowardly. When being taught to ski at age 40 some years back, I almost burst into tears on the bunny slope while children under the age of 5 were flying by me without poles or helmets. I hate risk. This attitude extends to my choice of personal investments, which have avoided the flashy and centered on enterprises that are firmly grounded - and in most cases impervious to growth. With more than $8,450 to work with at any one time, however, my investment choices would be conservative but far-reaching, and based on my well-researched assumptions about the needs of our society. I would like to think these investments would be both organic and locally grown.

You seek to satisfy several other important criteria, among them "independent thinking," "emotional stability," and a "keen understanding of both human and institutional behavior." Let me address those now.

* Independent thinking. I have that.

* Emotional stability. I confess I have always struggled with this issue. When I was very young, people thought I was mature for my age. That assessment was widespread among my teachers and friends of my parents. But it seems to have lapsed as I hit my early 20s, at which point those I came into contact with began to find me a bit jejune, particularly in interpersonal relations. Today I can tell you I'm more mature than I ever have been. I also feel myself growing more stable by the day. For example, two years ago I did a lot of things, mostly on a personal front, that I would certainly never do again. And my tendency to fly off the handle and scream at stupid people who annoy me has all but disappeared, a fact several of those who still work for me have commented on. My honesty on this issue should be proof, if any is needed, that I'm well on my way. In the old days I might have just led you on. Not anymore!

* Keen understanding of human and institutional behavior. Any dispassionate observer would have to say this is my strong suit. I have been a ubiquitous observer of organizational life and the people who inhabit it since oat bran was invented.

Finally, you express concern that your choice might be tempted to use the association with Berkshire Hathaway (Charts, Fortune 500) to build his résumé and then depart. I would, I give my word, do no such thing. I have been at basically the same job, doing very similar things, for the same corporation (factoring in the occasional transmogrification wrought by divestiture, acquisition, and merger of equals from time to time), for more than 20 years. I promise that the next big job I take will be my last. I'd like it to be for you, finding wonderful companies to invest in with your hard-earned nest egg. Just thinking of all the good things we could do with that money makes me want to put on a bib.

So let's have lunch. I know you're not a big boulevardier, but enjoy a simple Cherry Coke and hamburger now and then. I can do that. There's a little hole-in-the-wall in the Parker Meridien lobby here in Midtown that has the best burgers in the city, and the whole tab, with fries, often comes to less than ten bucks for two. Now that's what I call a no-risk deal.

Stanley Bing's latest book, 100 Bullshit Jobs & And How to Get Them (Collins), is available at finer bookstores everywhere. He can be reached at stanleybing@aol.com.  Top of page

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