Berkshire Hathaway 2017 Annual Meeting Audience Question # 46

Warren admits he underestimated Jeff Bezos

Warren Buffett:

OK. Station 4.

Audience Member:

Hi. My name is Joey. And I’m an MBA candidate at Wharton. Thank you for having us.

Amazon has been hugely disruptive, due to the brilliance of Jeff Bezos, whom Charlie earlier called the business mind of our generation.

What is your current outlook and… on Amazon? And why hasn’t Berkshire bought in?

Warren Buffett:

Well, because I was too dumb to realize what was going to happen… even though I admired Jeff. I’ve admired him for a long, long time and watched what he was doing.

But I did not think that he could succeed on the scale he has. And I certainly didn’t… I didn’t even think about the possibility of doing anything with Amazon Web Services or the cloud.

So if you’d asked me the chances that, while he was building up the retail operation, that he would also be doing something that was disrupting the tech industry, you know, that would’ve been a very, very long shot for me. And I’ve underestimated… I’ve really underestimated the brilliance of the execution.

I mean, it’s one thing to dream about doing this stuff online, but it takes a lot of ability. And, you know, you can read his 1997 annual report. And he laid out a roadmap. And he’s done it, and done it in spades.

And if you haven’t seen his interview on Charlie Rose three or four months ago… CharlieRose.com… go to it and listen to it because you’ll learn a lot. At least, I did. So, I just plain…

It always looked expensive. And I really never thought that he would be where he is today. I thought he would do… I thought he was really brilliant. But I did not think he would be where he is today when I looked at it three, five, eight, 12 years ago… whenever it may have been.

Charlie, how did you miss it?

Charlie Munger:

It was easy.

What was done there was very difficult, and it was not at all obvious that it was all going to work as well as it did.

I don’t feel any regret about missing out on the achievements of Amazon. But other things were easier. And I think we screwed up a little.

Warren Buffett:

No. We won’t pursue that line.

Charlie Munger:

Well, I meant Google.

Warren Buffett:

Well, we missed a lot of things.

Charlie Munger:

Yes.

Warren Buffett:

We missed a lot of things.

Charlie Munger:

And we’ll keep doing it.

Warren Buffett:

Yeah. And we’ll have a two…

Charlie Munger:

Luckily, we don’t miss everything, Warren. That’s our secret. We don’t miss them all.

Warren Buffett:

OK. We better move on, I think.

He may start getting specific.

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