Warren Buffett and Business Wire bring cheer to Wall Street

Happy 50th anniversary, Business Wire

It was Business Wire’s 50th birthday celebration today at the NYSE but an 81 year-old stole the show. Warren Buffett sparkled through the opening bell, a tour of the trading floor and media interviews. He shook hands with countless traders, signed autographs and even nimbly got down on one knee in a mock marriage proposal.

At one point, Buffett produced from his inside jacket pocket the fateful letter that Business Wire CEO Cathy Baron Tamraz wrote him in November 2005, leading to Berkshire Hathaway acquiring the newswire.

In a lunchtime interview, Buffett bluffly fielded questions ranging from how he would have fixed the financial crisis post-2008 to how he would solve Europe’s debt woes today. Nor did he shirk questions about the controversial wealth tax he has proposed (as he joked earlier with an executive from the NYSE, ‘It’s never good to have your name associated with a tax!’).

For all his twinkle, Buffett was nearly upstaged by 21 year-old Jenna Marie James, a senior from Indiana’s Ball State University who won Business Wire’s college video contest for her depiction of the future of PR and communications (watch the winning video here). James was clearly thrilled to join Business Wire’s birthday party. Sharing Buffett’s talent for playing the ukulele, she even performed a tune on the Early Show today (watch that here). Later Buffett signed two ukuleles for James.

Tamraz pointed out that 50 years has given her 560-employee company knowledge and experience. ‘But you’re never going to take away the disruptive, innovative nature of Business Wire,’ she declared, pointing to a patent announced Wednesday covering internet distribution of press releases and search engine optimization.

Anti-Wall Street protesters may have been camped just up the street and traders may have been nervously watching Europe’s debt struggles, but today was all about Business Wire. In fact, Mayor Bloomberg declared it Business Wire Day in New York. It was a welcome celebration amid gloomy times, with Buffett’s long-term value investing approach and common sense verging on optimism clearly cheering up his audience.

Among the questions, your correspondent asked one about investor relations. Buffett famously told CNBC that a lot of companies spend too much time kowtowing to investors, and that as an investor himself, he doesn’t need to be schmoozed. So with investors demanding so much face-time with management and exerting newfound power in the boardroom when they don’t get a say in how companies are run, what’s the best approach to investor relations?

Buffett’s answer in a nutshell: institutional investors shouldn’t get anything individual investors don’t, so write a great annual report once a year and post weekly answers to investor questions on your company website. Watch this video for more, including how Buffett famously addresses his acclaimed shareholder letters to his sisters, Doris and Bertie.

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