MBA News: Oracle of Omaha’s Son Challenges “Charitable-Industrial” Complex

Columbia Business School (CBS) alumnus Warren Buffett (’51) is regarded as one of the richest and most philanthropic businessman in the world, famously pledging to give away 99% of his wealth. In fact, participants in CBS’s Value Investing Program are given the annual opportunity to learn from the investing legend at his relatively modest home in Omaha, Nebraska. Aspiring MBAs who hope to someday approximate Buffett’s generosity (and his fortune) might therefore be surprised to read some rather critical remarks penned by his son in an Op-Ed in last week’s New York Times addressing the “charitable-industrial complex.”

Peter Buffett—who heads one of three foundations that the Oracle of Omaha established for each of his children—claims that good intentions are sometimes not enough. He cautions against mixing charitable giving with traditional business principles and is wary of philanthropists who are quick to pat themselves on the back. “Because of who my father is, I’ve been able to occupy some seats I never expected to sit in,” the younger Buffett says, adding, “Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left.”

Buffett’s declaration of a “crisis of imagination” could have some sway in inspiring future business leaders and investors to test entirely new concepts aimed at making foundation money “the best ‘risk capital’ out there.”

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