DealBook Briefing: Is Warren Buffett ‘Semiretired’? Sort Of.

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Berkshire Hathaway is (slightly) less about Buffett

Saturday was the day for the “Woodstock of capitalism” — Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting, and a celebration of Warren Buffett — and Andrew joined shareholders, analysts and other journalists seeking to ask the Oracle of Omaha about virtually anything.

Of course, one of the big topics was succession. Mr. Buffett (half-) jokingly said that he was “semiretired,” given that Ted Weschler and Todd Combs now manage about $25 billion, while Ajit Jain and Greg Abel do more day-to-day oversight of the business. But Mr. Buffett still runs about $300 billion worth of investments. Charlie Munger, his longtime business partner, added, “Not much has changed.”

Andrew has more from the meeting: Shareholders applauded a question — which they rarely do — that was critical of Berkshire’s ownership of Wells Fargo. And Mr. Buffett’s response to a gun question and a critique of Elon Musk caused lots of chatter.

Some other highlights from DealBook:

• Mr. Buffett is sticking with Wells Fargo despite its current troubles, and said that its current C.E.O., Tim Sloan, “is correcting mistakes made by other people.”

• He loves Apple — but wants the company, of which Berkshire owns about 5 percent, to keep buying back shares. He had less-kind words for cryptocurrencies, which he said will “come to bad endings.”

• He defended business with the gun industry, reiterating, “I do not believe on imposing my political opinions on the activities of our businesses.”


Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin in New York, and Michael J. de la Merced and Amie Tsang in London.


Behind Nestlé’s $7.2 billion deal with Starbucks

Why is the food giant paying billions in cash for the right to sell Starbucks products in non-Starbucks locations worldwide? Because coffee is Nestlé’s fastest-growing product line — it’s also why it bought a majority stake in Blue Bottle last year — and buying the royalties to Starbucks products will supercharge its efforts.

There’s another possible reason, according to Corinne Gretler of Bloomberg:

How Michael Cohen made his millions

The federal raid and investigation into President Trump’s fixer has cast a spotlight on Mr. Cohen’s side businesses. Among the most notable aspects is Mr. Cohen’s expansive taxicab empire, encompassing several dozen medallions in New York and Chicago — and racking up tens of millions of dollars in debt.

Then there was this, from the NYT:

Another must-read: How the Trump Organization spent over $400 million in cash — much of it apparently from its own coffers — on properties in the nine years before Mr. Trump became president.

In other Trump investigation news: Rudy Giuliani had another, um, freewheeling TV interview. Mr. Trump knew about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels months before denying any knowledge of it. Tom Barrack was questioned by the special counsel’s team. Meet George Conway, Kellyanne Conway’s husband, Wachtell Lipton lawyer and frequent Twitter pundit.

The political flyaround

• The Affordable Care Act isn’t gone, despite the president’s assertions. In some ways, the Trump administration is enforcing it more aggressively than the Obama administration did. (NYT)

• State budgets are looking rosier thanks to the improving national economy, but any lift from the tax cuts may be temporary, analysts say. (WSJ)

• The pharmaceutical industry is preparing to fight a move to rein in prescription drug prices (NYT)

• A closer look at Patagonia’s legal battle with the Trump administration over Bears Ears National Monument. (NYT)

• Don Blankenship, the former Massey Energy C.E.O. now running for a U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia, has been surging in recent Republican polls. (Politico)

• The Trump administration reportedly hired Black Cube, the Israeli investigative firm used by Harvey Weinstein, to collect information on Obama administration officials who worked on the Iran deal.

• As negative press piles up, Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. chief, has reportedly bunkered down. An E.P.A. official reportedly tried to shop around negative stories on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

What’s next in the U.S.-China trade fight

The Trump administration delegation left Beijing last week without a deal, as expected. But while President Trump continued to call for changes in the trade relationship, China appeared to soften its own combative tone somewhat.

Two new hot spots: China’s ordering 36 airlines to purge their websites of references to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as separate countries, and the setting of global industrial and tech standards.

Elsewhere in China news: ZTE has asked for relief from a U.S. ban on American businesses selling to the Chinese telecom company. WaPo looked at the Chinese operations of Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder. Washington is worried about a wave of U.S. patent applications from Chinese citizens, many reportedly filled with false information.

The oil market flyaround

• Exxon Mobil’s stock may be down, but it is poised to benefit from a recovery in global oil prices. (Barron’s)

• Oil futures hit multiyear highs today as prices cracked $70 a barrel. Saudi Arabia wants oil to reach at least $80 a barrel this year.

What about that other Facebook data?

Aleksandr Kogan wasn’t the only academic to harvest data from Facebook users: Researchers have collected information from the site for more than a decade. But the proliferation of these data sets has made it easier to identify some of the millions of individuals whose information was collected.

More from Sheera Frenkel of the NYT:

Elsewhere in data privacy: What Europe’s new law, the General Data Protection Regulation, means for you. For Margrethe Vestager, antitrust is about data, not market power.

Elsewhere in tech: The YouTube host whose questions Elon Musk preferred over research analysts’ took a shot at Wall Street. Mr. Musk hung up on the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board amid an investigation into a Tesla crash and also trolled Warren Buffett. The veteran venture capitalist John Doerr speaks on management and A.I.

The deals flyaround

• SoftBank’s talks to invest in Swiss Re are reportedly close to collapsing. (FT)

• Glencore and Qatar aren’t selling their stake in Rosneft to CEFC China Energy after all. (WSJ)

• Investors have quickly soured on Good Doctor, the health care arm of Ping An that went public last week. Shares in the cybersecurity firm Carbon Black rose 26 percent on Friday, their first day of trading.

• Dan Loeb’s Third Point wants United Technologies to consider breaking itself up. The expiration of Jana Partners’s standstill agreement with ConAgra may mean renewed pressure on the food maker.

• Brompton Bikes, the maker of popular fold-up bicycles, has snubbed traditional investor firms for crowdfunding platforms. (FT)

Revolving door

• Jean-Marc Janaillac announced plans to resign as Air France’s C.E.O., sending shares in the beleaguered airline tumbling. (Bloomberg)

The speed read

• Backstage Capital has announced a new $36 million fund that will invest exclusively in black female founders. (Recode)

• More than 1,500 items from the estate of Peggy and David Rockefeller are going up for auction, which Christie’s estimates could fetch over $500 million. (Bloomberg)

• Money hasn’t made Steve Schwarzman universally beloved. (NYT)

• How the mission to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid stumbled badly.(NYT)

• A legal secretary from Brooklyn left the Henry Street Settlement $6.24 million — the largest single gift from an individual to the social service group in its 125-year history. (NYT)

•The National Rifle Association asked members attending its annual convention in Dallas to “steer clear” of a local restaurant that said it would donate proceeds to help end gun violence. (NYT)

• Robocalls are getting worse. (NYT)

• Should you stop drinking Venezuelan rum? (NYT)

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