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November 13, 2009

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates Participate in Community Forum

In a community forum event on November 12, Buffett and Gates responded to student body questions on a variety of topics, including the economy, investing during an economic downturn and the fruitful careers and industries of the future.


More than 700 people from the Columbia Business School community had the rare opportunity to connect with two icons of American business — Warren Buffett, MS ’51, and Bill Gates — on November 12, 2009.

In a community forum event, Buffett and Gates responded to student body questions on a variety of topics, including the economy, investing during an economic downturn and the fruitful careers and industries of the future. Buffett and Gates also gave career advice and discussed the mentors and habits that played a role in their success. The event was filmed by CNBC for global broadcast and Becky Quick moderated.

When asked about the prospects of the American economy, both Gates and Buffett expressed that they never lost faith in the capitalist system during the economic downturn. They stressed that the fundamentals of the market and the innovative nature of American business will continue to bolster the American economy. Gates identified areas of economic growth in the U.S. — including information technology, healthcare and clean energy — as well as areas of improvement, including risk management in the financial markets and the K-12 school system.

Buffett also spent considerable time discussing the influence of his mentor, Professor Benjamin Graham CC’14, who taught Buffett the core skills that made him a shrewd investor. Benjamin Graham, alongside David Dodd, MS ’21, developed value investing, a methodology used to identify and buy securities price well below their true value. Graham, who started teaching this reason-based approach in 1928, later taught and mentored Buffet. During the forum, Buffett remarked that Graham’s mentorship had a permanent impact on his career.

In 2002, Columbia celebrated the legacy of Buffett’s mentor by establishing The Heilbrunn Center for Graham and Dodd Investing, which builds upon the original principles of Security Analysis, a text written by Graham and Dodd that is the primer for value investors. In 1984, Buffett marked the 50th anniversary of Security Analysis with an article in Hermes, the alumni magazine of the business school.