He couldn’t keep them in stock, especially during the sweltering summer months.
“I had no inventory or receivables… it was the best business I ever had,” said Warren Buffett, now 82. “But I made one mistake. I didn’t put the money I made into Coca-Cola stock.”
He rectified that mistake several years later. Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, is now the largest Coca-Cola shareowner. He has never sold a share of Coke stock, and says he never will.
During a 20-minute conversation with Coca-Cola chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent today at the company’s annual general meeting in Atlanta, “The Oracle of Omaha” explained why KO will always have a “Buy” rating in his book.
“I’m the kind of guy who likes to bet on sure things,” said Buffett, who served on Coke’s board of directors for 17 years. “No business has ever failed with happy customers… and you’re selling happiness.”
“I like wonderful brands,” he added. “If you take care of a great brand, it’s forever.”
Buffett shared his thoughts on why America’s best days are still ahead, calling a baby born in the U.S. today the luckiest person in the world.
“Just think – in 1790, we had 4 million people here, and there were hundreds of millions of people in the world,” he said. “We weren’t smarter and we didn’t even work harder than people elsewhere, necessarily. But we had a system that unleashed human potential. And that system – quality of opportunity, a rule of law, a market system – has produced an abundance. It has improved the standard of living in my lifetime six to one.”
He concluded, “We’ve got the formula. We’ll always have problems… but the world does not belong to the pessimist, believe me.”
Watch an archived webcast of Coke's annual meeting of shareowners.
More on Journey
- Solid 4% Volume Growth in First Quarter
- Learning to Lead: Coke Establishes Academy Inspired by Don Keough
- A Special Sendoff: Special Olympics Athletes Depart for World Winter Games in Korea
- Investing Together for a Better Tomorrow: Coke Discusses Growth Prospects at CAGNY
- Message from Sam Nunn, Lead Independent Director, in Annual Proxy Statement