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In 1949, Buffett was infatuated by a young woman whose current boyfriend had a ukulele. In an attempt to compete, he bought one of the diminutive instruments and has been playing it ever since. Though the attempt was unsuccessful, his music interest was a key part of his becoming a part of Susan Thompson’s life and led to their marriage. Buffett often plays the instrument at stock holder meetings and other opportunities. His love of the instrument led to the commissioning of two custom Dairy Queen ukuleles by Dave Talsma, one of which was auctioned for charity.
Buffett married Susan Buffett (née Thompson) in 1952. They had three children, Susie, Howard and Peter. The couple began living separately in 1977, although they remained married until Susan Buffett’s death in July 2004. Their daughter, Susie, lives in Omaha, is a national board member of Girls, Inc., and does charitable work through the Susan A. Buffett Foundation.
In 2006, on his 76th birthday, Buffett married his longtime companion, Astrid Menks, who was then 60 years old—she had lived with him since his wife’s departure to San Francisco in 1977. Susan had arranged for the two to meet before she left Omaha to pursue her singing career. All three were close and Christmas cards to friends were signed “Warren, Susie and Astrid”. Susan briefly discussed this relationship in an interview on the Charlie Rose Show shortly before her death, in a rare glimpse into Buffett’s personal life.
Buffett disowned his son Peter’s adopted daughter, Nicole, in 2006 after she participated in the Jamie Johnson documentary The One Percent. Although his first wife referred to Nicole as one of her “adored grandchildren”, Buffett wrote her a letter stating, “I have not emotionally or legally adopted you as a grandchild, nor have the rest of my family adopted you as a niece or a cousin.”
His 2006 annual salary was about US$100,000, which is small compared to senior executive remuneration in comparable companies. In 2007 and 2008, he earned a total compensation of $175,000, which included a base salary of just $100,000. He continued to live in the same house in the central Dundee neighborhood of Omaha that he bought in 1958 for $31,500, a fraction of today’s value. He also owns a $4 million house in Laguna Beach, California. In 1989, after spending nearly $6.7 million of Berkshire’s funds on a private jet, Buffett named it “The Indefensible”. This act was a break from his past condemnation of extravagant purchases by other CEOs and his history of using more public transportation.
|“||Bridge is such a sensational game that I wouldn’t mind being in jail if I had three cellmates who were decent players and who were willing to keep the game going twenty-four hours a day.||”|
|— Buffett on bridge|
Buffett is an avid bridge player, which he plays with fellow fan Gates—he allegedly spends 12 hours a week playing the game. In 2006, he sponsored a bridge match for the Buffett Cup. Modeled on the Ryder Cup in golf—held immediately before it in the same city—the teams are chosen by invitation, with a female team and five male teams provided by each country.
He is a dedicated, lifelong follower of Nebraska football, and attends as many games as his schedule permits. He supported the hire of Bo Pelini, following the 2007 season, stating, “It was getting kind of desperate around here”. He watched the 2009 game against Oklahoma from the Nebraska sideline, after being named an honorary assistant coach.
Buffett worked with Christopher Webber on an animated series called “Secret Millionaires Club” with chief Andy Heyward of DiC Entertainment. The series features Buffett and Munger, and teaches children healthy financial habits.
Buffett was raised as a Presbyterian, but has since described himself as agnostic. In December 2006, it was reported that Buffett does not carry a mobile phone, does not have a computer at his desk, and drives his own automobile, a Cadillac DTS. In 2013 he had an old Nokia flip phone and had sent one email in his entire life. Buffett reads five newspapers every day, beginning with the Omaha World Herald, which his company acquired in 2011.
A September 2014 Fast Company article featured Buffett’s “avoid at all cost” practice, used to prioritize personal goals. Buffett advises people to first create a list of the top 25 accomplishments that they would like to complete over the next few years of their life, and to then pick the five most-important list items. Buffett stated that people need to “avoid at all cost” the initial, longer list, as it would hinder the achievement of the top-five.
On April 11, 2012, Buffett was diagnosed with stage I prostate cancer during a routine test. He announced he would begin two months of daily radiation treatment from mid-July; however, in a letter to shareholders, Buffett said he felt “great – as if I were in my normal excellent health – and my energy level is 100 percent”. On September 15, 2012, Buffett announced that he had completed the full 44-day radiation treatment cycle, saying “it’s a great day for me” and “I am so glad to say that’s over”.
In 1999, Buffett was named the top money manager of the Twentieth Century in a survey by the Carson Group, ahead of Peter Lynch and John Templeton. In 2007, he was listed among Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the world. In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Most recently, Buffett, along with Bill Gates, was named the most influential global thinker in Foreign Policy’s 2010 report.