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What Keeps the Oracle in Omaha

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted August 31, 2012

Warren Buffett turned 82 yesterday, and he’s still in Omaha, Nebraska. He enjoys a famously low-key lifestyle there, having lived there since 1956, and that seems to be one of the biggest attractions of the place for the Oracle.

From Business Insider:

“If I had to live some other place I’d be fine doing it, but I can’t think of a better place to live than Omaha,” Buffett said in an interview with The Associated Press.

After growing up in Omaha, Buffett earned his master’s degree in economics at Columbia in New York City. He then worked in the city for a few years but returned to Omaha with his first wife, Susie, since they wanted their kids to grow up there.

The runaway success of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A) allowed him to remain in Omaha, free from the distractions that accompany a major metropolitan city, while expanding Berkshire’s reach far and wide. The short and relatively tranquil commute helped, too.

Today, Buffett is confident that there’s no reason for Berkshire to move under his successor. That’s a change from his previous position, wherein he indicated that whoever succeeded him could shift Berkshire’s headquarters wherever they wished.

Of course, that’s a real relief to the locals, who have long appreciated the reputation Buffett and Berkshire have earned Omaha. Every year, many thousands of Berkshire’s shareholders assemble for the annual company meeting, and this certainly boosts Omaha’s economy.

Buffett has been a dedicated supporter of the community, and the community has freely shown its appreciation. Many early Berkshire investors are also from Omaha, so the ties go back a long way. Most of the city’s major projects through the years have been possible thanks to some of these early investors, and Buffett has often stepped in too.

Ultimately, despite Berkshire’s headquarters employing just 24 versus the hundreds or more employed by other big Omaha firms like ConAgra Foods, it is Buffett’s presence and prominence that lift Omaha to the national stage. That’s just the way Buffett likes it, and that’s why he’s there to stay.