Friday, June 26, 2009

Meet Buffett's $2.1 million lunch partner

Hong Kong hedge fund manager Zhao Danyang says the Omaha sage is "so famous, but he's just like your friend"


Buffett has been closed-mouthed about the lunchtime conversation. "That guy just paid $2 million [for] my advice," Buffett told the New York Daily News. "I'm not going to give it to you for free."

Zhao recounted that he and Buffett did not talk about the short-term outlook, saying that as long-term investors it's irrelevant to them. But they did discuss economic cycles, a concept Zhao said was relatively new to him and to China.

They talked too about Buffett's philanthropic work. Zhao wanted to know why Buffett gave his money to the Gates Foundation instead of starting an organization of his own. Buffett told him that for the same reason people gave Buffett their money to invest because they believed he could allocate capital effectively, the billionaire gave his money to Gates because Buffett thinks Gates can do the same thing in the philanthropic world.

Zhao's 5-year-old son also was at the lunch, and Buffett told him he was fortunate to be born in China today. Both the U.S. and China will do well in the next 20 years, he said, but China will grow more quickly and provide serious opportunities.

"He said if he had a choice, he would like to be my son, lucky just like when he grew up in the U.S.," Zhao said.

Zhao was in the U.S. for 10 days on business in addition to the lunch, but in between his full schedule he managed to put down an offer on a New York City apartment. He's also thinking about opening up an office in the U.S. down the road.

"I want to live here and study everything here to learn more about America," he says. "[The U.S.] will do well in the future so it's a good time to invest now."

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