The lesser-known history of BRK's tobacco investments and the moral line drawn by Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger.
I wanted to look more into it after the discussion on Twitter. Thank you for doing the work, your writing is a treat
This was a great read. Thanks for doing the research!
Even in the 80's their stakes in tobacco are relatively small even tho they knew they were brilliant businesses. My guess is they always knew (they read everything) the harmful side but harder for them to pass a great legal deal in the earlier days or not fair?
Good background with regards to "moral" investing. According to the WHO, burning fossil fuels worldwide kills 7 million people prematurely, to say nothing of emissions. Yet Buffet is heavily invested in Occidental Petroleum. Wonder if they see this investment as problematic as tobacco?
When Buffett says “we have owned tobacco stocks in the past. We’ve never owned a lot of them”, isn’t he minimizing their stock ownership of RJR in 1982-83? After all, that was Berkshire’s #1 stock holding by cost basis for both years.
What a treat Devin! Really well researched article! I enjoyed reading about Berkshire’s tobacco investments over time and how Buffet and Munger viewed such investments in the 1990’s and 2000’s. I like their humility in recognizing that the way they drew the line wasn’t based on one rational guiding principle, and that everyone needs to make their own difficult moral decisions.
You have a nice blog here:).
I think the main reason is that Buffett likes his "good guy" image. That image can be favorable in certain circumstances. A company like Altria would fit perfectly into Berkshire. He could funnel the free cashflow into the energy business or the railroad.
On the other hand it would likely drop the share price and credit spread of Berkshire and it s companies. So he has an other rational than a private investor.