Warren Buffett's Secret: He Was a Shoplifter

Source: thetaxhaven.

Before Warren Buffett became the world's greatest investor at Berkshire Hathaway, he was a world-class shoplifter.

He retold the story, which was published in The Snowball, an authorized biography of his life. Warren Buffett tells Alice Shroeder, the author, that he and a friend had a particular favor for stealing from Sears.

We'd just steal the place blind. We'd steal stuff for which we had no use. We'd steal golf bags and golf clubs. I walked out of the lower level where the sporting goods were, up the stairway to the street, carrying a golf bag and golf clubs, and the clubs were stolen, and so was the bag. I stole hundreds of golf balls.

It was part of a stage of delinquency in his life. Around the same time, Buffett's grades had plummeted, and he began to act out in class.

A humanized legend
What's truly remarkable is that, before this story was ever told in his biography, it wasn't ever really public. Buffett could have taken this story to the grave. But he didn't.

He told it, and he told it honestly in a book that he knew millions of people would read.

Buffett works very hard to keep a pristine image. He doesn't flaunt his wealth. He was personally troubled by problems with insider trading by one Berkshire employee, David Sokol. And he never sells a Berkshire Hathaway business, lest people think he's just another private equity investor looking to buy and chop up businesses for resale.

Of course, this story will change the way some people think of him. When I think of Buffett, I like to think of him as someone who made a killing the honest way -- by finding and buying great companies.

Much of his wealth did come this way. Surely, whatever he may have potentially earned from his shoplifting adventures probably didn't have much impact on his billions.

What's the takeaway?
No one is perfect -- not even people who have crafted a perfect public image. Buffett's secret shoplifting adventures just go to show that a troublemaking eighth grader might just end up being one of the world's brightest businessmen of all time.

And people can change. Buffett undoubtedly learned from his shoplifting experiences. Much later, and with gray hair, he told a class of undergrad students how important it is to hire honest people. He retold the story of one Omaha businessman, and how he picked good employees:

There was a guy, Pete Kiewit in Omaha, who used to say, he looked for three things in hiring people: integrity, intelligence and energy. And he said if the person did not have the first two, the latter two would kill him, because if they don't have integrity, you want them dumb and lazy.

Buffett's not perfect, but he is wise.

Learn from the world's best investor 
Warren Buffett has made billions through his investing, and he wants you to be able to invest like him. Through the years, Buffett has offered up investing tips to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway. Now you can tap into the best of Warren Buffett's wisdom in a new special report from The Motley Fool. Click here now for a free copy of this invaluable report.


Read/Post Comments (8) | Recommend This Article (4)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2013, at 10:48 AM, Burstedbladder wrote:

    As I have always said many times before. The rich didn't get rich by honest and hard work. They lie, cheat and steal to gain their wealth.

    Now that he's admitted that he did this, he should be arrested and fined for those crimes. Theft is theft... and as of now, there is no respect for this pos of a man any longer imo.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2013, at 11:15 AM, fujidan wrote:

    I am not surprised by the shoplifting, or the bragging about it. Now that he has confessed, has he paid sears back for their losses ? Most likely not.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2013, at 11:44 AM, stellar451 wrote:

    Srsly?

    The takeaway most ppl would have is - "hey, he had the integrity to admit he went through a bad patch in his life" - instead we get comments like these based in media indoctrination of class warfare

    Nice

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2013, at 11:50 AM, stellar451 wrote:

    Oh, and you guys do realize that this was 70 years ago.

    70 years.

    When he was a juvenile.

    And you want him arrested for theft. Srsly?

    Thank god he didnt steal a couple of candy bars a year earlier of youd be pushing for him to be put in prison with no parole under the three strikes rule...

    Smh...

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2013, at 1:06 PM, franksalot73 wrote:

    He wants to boast about being a thief and arrogantly think he is something special because of his wealth and fame today.

    My dad, Charles Nordby spent his life catching thieves and used his talents to prevent retailers from going broke because of theft. He was probably the smartest businessman to ever walk into a grocery store. Buffet couldn't even walk in his shoes.

    Warren Buffet is no hero. He is just exactly what makes America smell today.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2013, at 1:13 PM, stellar451 wrote:

    "It was part of a stage of delinquency in his life. Around the same time, Buffett's grades had plummeted, and he began to act out in class."

    "He doesn't flaunt his wealth."

    Sure sounds like he boasting about being a thief, yup. And arrogant to, obviously flaunting his wealth as he does.

    Tip - reading is essential.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2013, at 4:52 PM, xscharm wrote:

    Buffet says he intends to give away 99% of his fortune which is close to $50 billion. In 2006 he pledged stock worth $30 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which he's paying off annually, including $1.5 last year. Also, last year he gave away at least $3 billion to his children's philanthropies.

    How much have you given to charity lately?

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2013, at 7:11 PM, luckyagain wrote:

    "Buffett's not perfect, but he is wise."

    I wonder how many other kids did stupid things when they were young? Many, many. It reminds of the book "Crime and Punishment" by Dostoyevsky where he explored crime and how society reacts to it. I do wonder when Buffett stopped stealing. In some ways stealing and getting away with it is like a drug. For some people the thrill is more important than the goods. I wish more had been said about his stopping.

Add your comment.

DocumentId: 2728459, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 4/23/2014 4:14:54 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement