Too soft on Buffett?

Kass did something nobody else has ever done. He questioned the Oracle's mortality -- among other things.

By Jim Cramer May 6, 2013 9:09AM

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Billionaire investor Warren Buffett applauds Credit Nati Harnik APWas Doug Kass too soft on Warren Buffett?

I know that one of my favorites, Jason Zweig from the Journal, says some wags offered that view.

Frankly, I think that's nonsense. In fact, this was a terrific exchange if you are thinking about buying Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) (BRK.B) or covering your short.

First, Kass did the unthinkable. He actually questioned Buffett's mortality. He actually, without saying it out loud, questioned the notion that Buffett would live forever. No one else has ever done that.

Think about it. First, Kass made it clear that a lot of the most recent big deals, including the Goldman Sachs (GS), GE (GE) and Bank of America (BAC) investments, all of which we wish he had access to, happened because of the imprimatur of Buffett himself. So what happens if Buffett is not at the helm? It is entirely possible that those kinds of seat-of-the pants deals can't happen without Buffett. So why would I want to go long if he isn't there? Or do we presume he lives to 100 and everything is hunkey-dorey.

Second, he asked about putting Buffett's son Howard as executive chairman, given that he has never run a company like this or made material investments. Buffett dismissed Kass totally because he said his son knows the culture. I don't know, I would prefer someone else with experience. That makes me less likely to buy the stock than, say, if Sam Palmisano were to be executive chairman or someone like Leon Cooperman, who knows the company cold (he went with Dougie to Omaha). Maybe someone who knows insurance like Jay Fishman or pipelines like Rich Kinder, or perhaps someone from his excellent board, or maybe a former CEO of Wells Fargo, a big holding.

As far as breaking up the company, the notion that the fifth-largest company in the world should be just this pastiche, if not a mosaic, of unrelated companies wouldn't carry water anywhere other than with Berkshire. Nobody would put these pieces together. No one. It would make no sense. It only makes sense because Buffett put them together. No other exec could do this. No one.

My conclusion? You wouldn't want to buy Berkshire if Buffett weren't at the helm. Not in this condition. Kass nailed it.

I would not be a seller here. I would still be a buyer. Buffett has the power to make this company a better investment as a whole than in parts.

But no one else on earth can pull it off. So my mind would change if Buffett isn't immortal.

Thank you, Doug Kass, for pointing all of this out. It was very brave and yet still very respectful. Not tough enough? If anything, they cut to the matter at hand: would you want buy Berkshire Hathaway without Buffett?

I think the answer is "no."



Jim Cramer is a co-founder of TheStreet and contributes daily market commentary to the financial news network's sites. Follow his trades for Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer co-manages as a charitable trust and has no positions in stocks mentioned.



More from

May 6, 2013 11:04AM
Balls to the wall. Buffet knows timing and value of buying low and selling high without emotion.
May 6, 2013 11:10AM
Wow cramer seems to forget that last year he said Buffett was "quaint" and his ideas no longer had merit .....

what a tool ...
May 6, 2013 2:48PM

Vox and Abs.....Here we go.....All I need now, is Fatty Cakes to show up..

But he might still be in hospital, where I brushed his fat azz at 85 MPH.

I'll bet 3 donuts, he is lurking?.....Here Fatty, here Fatty; yuk,yuk.

May 6, 2013 9:42AM
May 6, 2013 12:28PM
Buffett is promoting has own economic interests. He needs the stock market to go higher and I hope it happens. However, I must pursue my interests and I make money after bubbles pop.
May 6, 2013 11:05AM
A single word from Buffet is worth a thousand Cramer (or any of his commentator buddies) articles...
May 6, 2013 11:10AM

By the way I am Vox Pop with a new handle ......
May 6, 2013 11:51AM
What Cranium and others don't know is that immediately upon Buffett's death, his brain will be removed and preserved in a special pH balanced solution allowing for continued electro-chemical processes.  This brain investment operating unit (bi-out) will be interfaced to the Berkshire research servers so that all stakeholders can have the opportunity to perpetually benefit from his wisdom.
May 6, 2013 11:43AM
Some of Buffet's "words of wisdom" don't apply anymore.  Buy a stock and forget about it and hold it forever?  Really?  Not on your life, not now.  Buy what you know?  Absolutely!  But there are many things that we assume we know about a company, that we really don't.   There are too many public companies that have their headquarters here, but don't make a damn thing inside our borders.
May 6, 2013 12:35PM
Cramer - March 2011:   "there’s only one investment strategy you will ever need: short ." .............
May 6, 2013 11:20AM
V_L.......There were some "excellent entry points" on BERK.B.....There was your chance.
May 6, 2013 11:18AM

VOX......Who would have thunk it...?

You gotta quit using these Latin handles, about the time I get one figured out, you go and change.

But I have an inside...

Miss Lilly had Latin in school years ago, and was a pretty good student of it.


" In Hoc Signo Vinces"....Yes we shall !!

May 6, 2013 2:35PM
Well lookee here ---- abs is back form his NAMBLA meeting come you never post of fridays phatphuk? Are you an Imam or a Rabbi maybe?

I have a sort of mental pic ....I would wager you are the one guy in the office who has that greasy, crinkly hair and dandruff all over your collar, rolls of fat leaking out of said collar and shirt buttons straining agains the massive bulk wonder why people don't really like to come near you and why none of your relatives will leave you alone with their  kids's because you look so creepy and well you know .....urgh ......enjoy the 4 hot dog lunch and remember the dude who served you may have licked them all.....  

Since my name changing is bugging you so much look for a few more in the coming weeks .....I like the idea of your blood pressure rising every day .....  : )
May 6, 2013 12:51PM

I dunno Steagles, I don't consider myself a Dumb Bunny, the main difference between me and Buffet is about a 100 billion...

Other than that, not much...


If I win a big Lotto, then I move a little closer...$400 million...Would change our lives a lot, but not change who we are..

May 6, 2013 11:34AM
So I could write a well researched article for Monday morning or watch the playoffs.........
May 6, 2013 12:08PM

Not to argue the point, because some of Warren's idealogy has fallen to the wayside...

And his wisdom is not always spot on or correct...

But then again, it depends what parts or ideas, one might suscribe to.


If an individual had followed him for years even decades, I think you will find that much of his wit and wisdom would be useful, very useful in parts.

And he wasn't always adverse to his own rules, and Berk has adapted many times.


But I always liked Mark Twain and Will Rogers too...

May 6, 2013 10:55AM

Not anymore of an "outsider" for the most part than I, I probably just have a greater interest and the time to pursue those interests..

As far as BERK....Never been invested in ANY of their stock...A or B.

Never bought any books about Berkshire or Buffet...

But have read articles about both occassionally..

I find them interesting at times....And big money kind of fascinates me, the how, when and whys?

With roughly about 35+ years of that curiosty, you have to pick up some tidbits...

And that has also helped us in retirement....Now investing being a hobby, I enjoy.

And one of my pursuits or games, is to try and "best" Berkshire on a yearly basis..

Some years I have done fairly well,...Had him beat last year 2012 up until about the end, then he whooped me in the last few furhlongs... 

May 6, 2013 10:14AM

Basically Steve.....Every year when Berkshire has their "Shareholders Meeting"...

Everybody with a typewriter and a journalist' job in finance; Comes out and writes about it..


This year there were about 40,000 BERKites, financial people, media etc..In attendance.

Omaha was invaded by "lost souls" wandering around with IDs, placards and press passes hanging around their necks...The "Badges of Importance" for some of the chosen...


Some of the bigger issues (because Berk's gain, was intact YOY) were Warren learning and getting a Twitter Account and "tweeting now";  Buffet extolling the virtures of having more women involved at different levels of finance and in Control of higher positions( 3 on Berk's board now or the third about to be installed?)  And WB's(CMs) possible retirements and chosen successors??

Pretty much what was hot and what was not...?

May 6, 2013 12:54PM

Self Promotion, is a way of life in America....If you don't, you end up in the dustbin of life..

****edited for**** I think it's nap time..??


May 6, 2013 12:26PM

If an individual actually likes some of WB/CM investment ideas, the ones that can be afforded??


It is somewhat easy to check out the holdings of BERK.A and BERK.B...

And buy accordingly..The choices "you might prefer"..?

Many of their Holdings are Long Term, but are bought and sold in cycles also.

Buffet being mostly known as a "Value Investor", has made many mistakes over the years...

The one thing I like about him most....Is "he owns up to those mistakes too."

Remember it took him the better share of 50+ years to get where they are at...

And he started out solely with that goal in mind..

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