Mr. Warren Buffett (right), CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, and
Mr. Harrold Melton, President of Acme Brick Company
sat down after Acme's acquisition by Berkshire in 2000
to discuss Acme Brick's role--past and future--in helping
HARROLD E. MELTON:
Warren, being a part of Berkshire Hathaway is really exciting.
Talk about unlimited potential!
What were some of your initial thoughts when you first considered
WARREN E. BUFFETT:
Harrold, I must tell you that I was delighted to
find a company with such a long record of providing quality products
and services. Everything about Acme defines the type of company in
which we like to invest.
Your business is solid and easy to understand,
just like Coke®, Gillette®, GEICO®
and American Express®.
We place a high value on investing in companies
with strong brand positions in their markets.
While reading Acme's history, I was amazed at all of the challenges
that Acme has had to address in the years since having been founded in 1891.
How did that happen, I asked myself. As I kept reading, the answer became clear.
Time and again over the decades, Acme people have consistently stepped forward, not only
in times of crisis but also in times of tremendous opportunity.
These are people who have always been committed to the company's success
and who have always understood the importance of the work that they were doing.
Warren, few types of work are more meaningful than construction.
Can you think of another industry that contributes as much
to our nation's permanent wealth as the creation of beautiful,
enduring places of shelter for families and businesses?
When you think about it, the loyalty that people feel for our company
is perfectly understandable.
Here is one fairly clear indication of Berkshire Hathaway's
management approach to the operation of our member companies.
During the past 34 years, Berkshire Hathaway has never had
an operating officer leave except for retirement or death.
In fact, the great majority of our subsidiaries are still run
by the same executives who brought them to Berkshire in the first place.
We buy well-run companies and let them run.
Warren, that's quite an achievement during this era of constant managerial change.
Does this philosophy also extend to Berkshire Hathaway's
retention of the companies that they acquire?
Yes. We buy companies to keep.
I have an enormous reluctance to sell our wholly owned
businesses under almost any circumstances.
I think of my life's business work as a large canvas.
I'm painting a picture of a very complete group of
fundamentally sound businesses.
These companies will continue to serve our nation
for many decades to come.
Acme will occupy a prominent place on that canvas.
I'm very excited
to be a participant in your challenging, critically important
business of helping build our nation's infrastructure.
By the way, Warren, I know from reading your annual reports that
people suggest new acquisitions for Berkshire--and that you occasionally
act on their suggestions. If you received a tip about a manufacturer of
artificial stucco sheathing, what would be your response?
Not a chance.