The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America, Fifth Edition 5th Edition
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About the Author
Warren Buffett is the Chief Executive Officer of Berkshire Hathaway, a $500 billion holding company engaged in a variety of businesses.
- Publisher : Carolina Academic Press; 5th edition (October 14, 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 350 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1531017509
- ISBN-13 : 978-1531017507
- Item Weight : 1.45 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.5 x 0.75 x 9.75 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #12,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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The book arranges Buffett’s essays by topic thus making it easier to relate when reading. The complete text is available from Berkshire’s web site for anyone to download, which is arranged by the year it was written - annual reports.
The Essays of Warren Buffett touches on many topics. The topics included are governance investing, alternatives, common stock, acquisitions, valuation, accounting, tax and some history. Buffett starts by discussing alignment of interest and describes how him and Charlie Mungers financial fate are squarely determined by the absolute performance of Berkshire stock and how they are first and foremost shareholders. They then discuss governance structures that they approve of and characterize a bunch of structures which are weak. Though the writing is out of date with the monstrosity of packages awarded to executives today for no measurable improvement to the businesses they run, the spirit of their concerns remains more valid than ever. Boards of directors should be forced to read this to be reminded of their role. The major topic is of course investing. The authors describe a host of opportunities that they consider from long term investing identification, how to deal with the vagaries of the market and how to think about building portfolios. At the end of the day the messages are clear, one should be disciplined, use the markets emotional waves for better entry prices. Buying great businesses at fair prices is better than buying fair businesses at great prices and so on. There are many gems in the writing. There is a collection of writings on alternatives to common stock investing, including junk bonds and pref shares and convertibles. This is somewhat dated as finance has gone off the deep end embracing financial engineering without economic purpose. Nonetheless a framework for thinking about alterative payoff profiles remains insightful, though less relevant than the principles of investment chapter. The authors then discuss common stocks and the associated risks and rewards. It would be have been fascinating to have old valuation based investors transported into 2020 where stock splits elevated stocks by massive amounts on the biggest of companies (the consequence of how efficient markets are no doubt... I would love to hear Fama rationalize that phenomenon as efficient). The chapter on acquisitions remains relevant and discuss agency problems that remain issues today. They also discuss buybacks reminding the reader what a rational buyback policy should be based on rather than some of the behaviors undertaken today by management incentivized to raise the stock price above their management option strikes. The chapters on valuation and accounting are fantastic. They remind the reader what common sense but simultaneously deep perspectives are on thinking about valuation and thinking about how to think about accounting and real earnings power of businesses. These remain relevant for every market and give a framework for considering intangibles, the foundation of many modern tech giants.
At the time of this review, markets have gone into full bubble mode in many pockets. One only has to read a book like this to be reminded that, this isn't the first time and to participate rather than tread with caution will lead to regret. The writings give a timeless grounding to the thoughtful investor and this will remain full of gems for decades to come.
There is no shortage of books on Warren Buffet. It is an interesting state of affairs: numerous writers, pundits, and other Warren Buffet "experts" opining on the life and investing decisions of perhaps the greatest investing and capitalist "expert" of all time.
Others opining on the life of a genius is often necessary, when it comes to understanding the broader impact that genius has had on society. A masterful investor, scientist, engineer, or whatever is not also necessarily always an effective writer and communicator. Mr. Buffet, however, is a rare breed.
Not only has Mr. Buffet, across his lifetime, compiled the most impressive track record capitalism has ever produced- one of growth, achievement, societal awareness and improvement, but he can also write. He writes in a language that is, in the words of Montaigne, "simple...succulent and sinewy, brief and compressed...brusque."
Lawrence A. Cunningham through this book expresses an important truth- when a man such as Mr. Buffet writes with the clarity and power that he does, not much benefit is given to the reader by adding words on top of what is already clear and powerful prose. If one is trying to make sense of Mr. Buffet and his philosophies, the best place to start is with Mr. Buffet's own "sinewy" words, which are presented, unadorned except with a short preface, in this book.
"Essays" is a bit of a misnomer for the content of this book. In fact, this book is actually a compilation of excerpts from the Annual Letters Mr. Buffet has written to the shareholders of his company, Berkshire Hathaway, over the last thirty plus years. Worth noting, these very letters are available, in their entirety, on the World Wide Web for free. Something, however, is definitely gained through reading Mr. Buffet's words as Mr. Cunningham has arranged them.
Mr. Cunningham has arranged this book by subject, rather than time- and the effect is pleasing and effective. The way that Mr. Cunningham chose to arrange Mr. Buffet's letters is into the following categories: Corporate Governance, Corporate Finance and Investing, Alternatives to Common Stock, Common Stock, Mergers and Acquisitions, Accounting and Valuation, and Accounting Policy and Tax Matters.
The effect of Cunningham's carefully-chosen delineations is a book that has more the feel of an educational guide, than a story of Mr. Buffet's investing career and his company, Berkshire Hathaway.
What emerges out of this educational guide is the philosophy and teachings of a gifted Professor and practitioner. No matter whether Mr. Buffet is waxing poetic on business or outlining his scruples over how corporations account for equity stock options, out of his writing emerges a consistent and eloquent philosophy on the "right" and effective approach to business, investing, capitalism, and life.
The "Buffet Way", perhaps impossible to summarize fully in a few short sentences, is stoic and original. The practitioner of this philosophy is one who stands apart from society, ignores any "institutional imperative" that may impede rational decision-making. The "Buffet Way" is a mode of analysis that knows the bounds of its own limitations, and is free of emotion. The Buffet Way demands that every decision require a "margin of safety" or room for error.
Most importantly, Mr. Buffet's view of investing, and particularly of investing in the stock market or in other marketable securities, grasps a simple but important concept that is lost on so many market pundits and practitioners: stocks are not abstractions. Stocks are certificates that represent a share of ownership in an underlying business. Too often people don't look through stocks to the underlying business they represent. This book aptly is subtitled, "Lessons for Corporate America", because Mr. Buffet is after all an evaluator of businesses.
Stocks and their prices are only relevant when they become disjointed, in a favorable way, from the underlying realities of the business they represent.
To think the "Buffet Way" takes more, though, than knowing the concept's basic precepts. It takes discipline, and a stoic fight against the animal spirits that so often lead investors astray. This book and its precepts are worth reading, and rereading, until hopefully its lessons are engrained in the psyche in a way that they become impossible to ignore.