ATLANTA -- Everyone knows Warren Buffett can pick a winning stock. But, as nearly 700 Coca-Cola shareowners learned first-hand today at the company’s annual meeting, the iconic investor and philanthropist can also pick his way around a ukulele.

Before taking the stage for a conversation with Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent, Buffett appeared on screen playing and singing the classic 1971 jingle, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke." 

“I could buy the world a Coke, but I’m not sure my shareowners would go for that,” the 84-year-old Berkshire Hathaway CEO joked at the end of the clip.

When Coca-Cola invited Buffett to toast the 100th anniversary of its iconic bottle with a special song, the company’s largest shareowner – and loyal Coke and Cherry Coke drinker – gladly accepted.

“Knowing Warren is such a fan of the brand and that he has this musical gift, we thought, ‘What better way to celebrate this great Coca-Cola milestone while having a bit of fun?” said Jennifer Healan, group director, integrated marketing content, for Coca-Cola North America.

Mark Roberts
Luthier Mark Roberts with Warren's custom Coca-Cola ukulele

As a gesture of thanks – and to make the experience even more memorable – the team commissioned Mark Roberts, a renowned luthier in Portland, Oregon, to build Buffett a one-of-a-kind, heirloom-quality instrument.

Roberts sourced a diverse range of tonewoods – including European Carpathian spruce from Romania, reclaimed Honduran mahogany and Malagasy ebony – and handcrafted the custom tenor ukulele in about five weeks (the process usually takes up to six months). The red uke also features an inlaid Coca-Cola logo on the headstock and a contour-shaped soundhole. Its matching red case is inscribed with the note: “From one icon to another.”

Healan and the Wieden + Kennedy Portland crew surprised Buffett with the finished product last month at his Berkshire Hathaway office in Omaha. 

“He was so excited,” said Thomas Harvey, account director, Wieden + Kennedy Portland. “He picked it up and practiced the song, changing the key a few times… you can see him tuning up and singing at the start of the film. The whole process only took about 30 minutes.”

Buffett’s folksy charm and trademark sense of humor are on display in the 47-second video, which concludes appropriately with him plucking Coke’s signature five-note melody.

Buffett first picked up the ukulele – a small, guitar-like instrument – in college to impress a girl he had a crush on. In a 2008 interview with NPR, Peter Buffett, one of Warren’s three children, recalled growing up surrounded by sounds of his dad strumming and crooning classics from the 1930s and ‘40s around the house.

The elder Buffett’s musical talent evidently runs in the family; Peter is an Emmy Award-award winning composer. The Buffetts have performed together publicly on occasion. The “Oracle of Omaha” also has duetted with rocker Jon Bon Jovi and actress Glenn Close, and even serenaded Piers Morgan on live TV.

“He’s a really accomplished ukulele player,” Harvey said, “and quite a ham... both of which can been seen in the video."