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Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Warren and his gift
Lots of news coverage about Warren Buffett donating billions of dollars to the charitable foundation set up by Bill and Melinda Gates. Two worth noting that I've seen so far:

1. The NYT on their relationship:
In public, there is a relaxed towel-snapping aspect to their relationship as if they are making up for all those jocular moments that passed them by during their younger, more intensely ambitious years.

In an earlier interview with Charlie Rose, Mr. Buffett explained the role he played in Mr. Gates's engagement in 1994 to his wife, with whom he has had three children. The couple flew into Omaha, where they met Mr. Buffett at Borsheim's, the jeweler that Berkshire Hathaway has owned for years.

"Look, Bill, this is none of your business, but when I got married, I spent 6 percent of my net worth on the ring," he recalled saying to Mr. Gates, who at the time had a net worth already well into the billions. "I don't know how much you love Melinda."

Mr. Gates can get his jabs in, too. He has said publicly that his daughter calls Mr. Buffett "the man who works at Dairy Queen," a needle at Mr. Buffett's oft-expressed love for the company, which he owns, and its signature product.

2. The Washington Post's Allan Sloan on the shrewd business aspects:
I'm not dealing with the social aspects of Buffett's gift -- that's not my world. My world is finance, and any finance fan has to love the clever way that Buffett has set up his gift to take advantage of the Gates Foundation's expertise while simultaneously maximizing the gift's impact on the charitable world and minimizing the gift's downward pressure on Berkshire's stock price.

Stock price matters because Buffett has obligations to look after Berkshire shareholders' interests. In addition, Buffett's gift, which is being given away over a period of years, is 12.05 million Berkshire B shares rather than a fixed amount of money. The higher Berkshire's stock price is over time, the more his gift will be worth.