Meet Warren Buffett for “just” $156 000 – and AOL’s Armstrong changes feet

Warren Buffett’s pulling power is legendary. Every year more than 30 000 of us take the winding road to Omaha in Nebraska

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Warren’s pulling power is legendary. But Jack Staub’s bid of $156 000 for a meeting has taken it to a new levelto attend the Berkshire Hathaway AGM. Few care about the financials. The magnet is listening for five and a half hours as Buffett and vice chairman Charlie Munger answer questions ranging from investment advice and business ethics to life.

to attend the Berkshire Hathaway AGM. Few care about the financials. The magnet is listening for five and a half hours as Buffett and vice chairman Charlie Munger answer questions ranging from investment advice and business ethics to life.

The Oracle of Omaha’s popularity was confirmed again yesterday Newport Beach engineer and business owner Jack Staub bid $156 000 for the privilege of meeting Buffett when he next visits his California confectionary business See’s Candy. The winner also got an all-you-can-eat tour of the factory with his wife Jade and two kids, including witnessing Buffett “demonstrate the only acceptable way to eat a bonbon.” The Buffett offering was originally valued at $75 000.

By comparison, in June the top bid to dine one-on-one with gorgeous Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer fetched $90 000. In the same auction as Buffett, a date with actress Reese Witherspoon went for a measly $6 000. Other celebrity packages that were part of the auction were lunch with Twitter co-founder Biz Stone; golf with Madiba lookalike Morgan Freeman; and lunch with CEOs Bob Iger (Disney) and John Mackey (Whole Foods).

According to charitybuzz.com, which arranged the auction, Staub made the contribution in memory of a family friend who died of cancer. It is the second time Staub has grabbed the headlines for spending big. Four years ago be had the final bid, at $27 350 for a cheque (of $10.50) written and signed by Neil Armstrong on the day he blasted off for the moon. After his winning bid, Staub said he’d been prepared to go to $40 000 for the Armstrong cheque.

The late Neil, whose status in the US is legendary, wouldn’t have been impressed with the recent actions of his namesake Tim, CEO of AOL, who achieved instant online notoriety by firing a senior executive for taking photos of him during a conference call.

This being the age of the web, the photos that irritated Tim Armstrong so much they cost Abel Lenz his job are now available for all to see.  After the video of the meetingwent viral, Armstrong wrote an email to AOL staff (which was also leaked) admitting “It was an emotional response…….I am accountable for the way I handled the situation, and at a human level it was unfair to Abel. I’ve communicated to him directly and apologized for the way the matter was handled at the meeting.”

So did Abel get his job back. Erm, no.

Armstrong justifies himself with: “Abel had been told previously not to record a confidential meeting, and he repeated that behavior on Friday, which drove my actions.” But he wasn’t recording it. Just taking pics. And when I listened to the recording, before the crucial moment Armstrong went on about not giving a hoot if what he said was leaked to outsiders.

Maybe I heard wrong? Or maybe this is one really stressed media manager who hasn’t yet learnt the power of the authentic apology? And that the best way to stop digging is to throw away the spade?

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