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UI MBA Students to Pick Buffett's Brain

Warren Buffet has been in the headlines a lot lately. The Berkshire Hathaway CEO recently took over Burlington Northern railroad, voiced loud opposition to Kraft's takeover of Cadbury and split his coveted Berkshire stock.

A group of 20 University of Iowa MBA students will hear about that and more when they meet with Buffet at his Omaha headquarters on Friday, Feb. 5. The visit is part of a Buffett tradition, where he invites management students from across the country to his offices, shows them around Omaha, answers their questions and even buys them lunch.

Kshipra Pitre, the Tippie MBA student co-organizing the visit, is looking forward to hearing from someone considered to be one of the world's wisest business soothsayers.

"There is a lot of prestige and glamour attached to this event because he has changed so many lives around the world," Pitre said. "His approach to life is inspiring, too. He has such a humble charisma even though he could be full of himself, and that humility is inspiring."

Pitre said she's hoping to learn about how to be a good leader from Buffett, and hopes he'll talk about what he learned from his many experiences.

"What kind of mistakes did he make?" she said. "What did he learn along the way, and when did he learn it? And when can we expect to learn it?"

Buffett meets with students for about 90 minutes at Berkshire's corporate headquarters, which includes a question-and-answer session about topics that can range from hard-core finance to goofy personal asides. The visit also includes field trips to the Nebraska Furniture Mart and Borsheim's Jewelers -- two iconic Omaha businesses now owned by Berkshire Hathaway but still managed by their previous family owners -- and lunch at Piccolo Pete's steakhouse, one of Buffett's favorite restaurants.

For student Jordan Fife, the trip is a chance to meet someone he's been emulating for years.

"Most people my age grew up idolizing Michael Jordan, but my heroes were Bill Gates and Warren Buffett," he said. "I don't think I'm going to get much sleep the night before."

Student Justin Block points out that some people pay millions of dollars in charity auctions to have lunch with Buffett.

"People would give their eye teeth and millions of dollars to have this opportunity that we have for free," he said. "I can't pass that up."

Trip veterans say that students have come away surprised by some of Buffett's beliefs, such as his thoughts about business acquisitions (most deals are bad, so the fewer the better), his commitment to diversity (he insists that schools send a representative number of men and women students), his tax philosophy (a near-100 percent inheritance tax) and his politics (a moderate, he supported Barack Obama in the last presidential election, though he has recently expressed disappointment in some of his economic policies).


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