Dial B-U-F-F-E-T-T for merger
By STAFF: David Kirkpatrick, Michael Rogers, Patricia Sellers, H. John Steinbreder, Eleanor Johnson Tracy

(FORTUNE Magazine) – In one of the most unusual want ads the Wall Street Journal has ever run, Warren E. Buffett, 56, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., announced that he was looking to buy businesses worth $100 million or more before December 31, 1986. ''We have the money,'' reads the $47,000, nearly full-page ad, ''and we can act with extraordinary speed . . . If you have any possible interest, call promptly.'' The reason to act fast is the tax law that takes effect January 1. While the jump in the federal capital gains tax rate for individuals from 20% to 28% is alarming enough, Buffett warns that business owners could pay the equivalent of a 52.5% capital gains tax if they wait until after December 31 to sell. He comes up with that figure by considering the new 34% capital gains tax that corporations must pay on the sale of a business and the 28% that shareholders owe on the remaining capital gain. Says Buffett: ''Many companies have a reason to beat the clock.'' Before you rush to your telephone, however, be warned that not just any potential acquisition will do. The company must have ''at least $10 million of after-tax earnings and preferably much more,'' according to the ad, and must also boast good return on equity, little or no debt, and a management in place. It should also be in a simple business: ''If there's lots of technology, we won't understand it.'' Buffett is not the only one scrounging for end-of-the-year deals. American Brands offered $2.8 billion for Chesebrough-Pond's; Irwin Jacobs, the Minneapolis investor, made a bid of at least $3.7 billion for Borg-Warner Corp.; and Leslie Wexner of The Limited Inc. and developer Edward J. DeBartolo made a joint $1.77-billion offer for Carter Hawley Hale Stores. A week before Buffett's notice appeared, Paine Webber ran a smaller ad that said, ''We have the personnel, the capital, and the capacity to handle the purchase or sale of your business by December 31, 1986.'' Even though their ads have generated dozens of calls, neither Buffett nor Paine Webber has come up with a deal. And time is running out.