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Warren Buffett Jokes to CNBC: I Passed Gates on Wealth List Because I "Spend Less"

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, right, and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates participate in a Q & A session with students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Business Administration, in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, Sept. 30, 2005.(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Nati Harnik
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, right, and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates participate in a Q & A session with students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Business Administration, in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, Sept. 30, 2005.(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Warren Buffett tells CNBC's Becky Quick, with his familiar laugh, that he was able to replace Microsoft's Bill Gates as the world's richest person because he "spends less."

In a brief off-camera telephone chat about Forbes' new list of global billionaires, with Buffett and his estimated $62 billion in the top position, the Berkshire Hathaway chairman joked that "it's a tribute to thriftiness."


This morning on Squawk Box, just after a brief Mary Thompson profile of Buffett, Becky described how she called the Omaha billionaire to congratulate him. She says he treated the whole thing as an "afterthought" but did say:

"If you want to know why I passed Bill Gates, it's because I spend less. It's a tribute to thriftiness."

Buffett and Gates are long-time friends, often playing golf and online bridge together. Buffett also chose the Gates Foundation as the charity that will be getting the bulk of his fortune.

After Becky talked on the air about Buffett's comment, she sent an email to Bill Gates to his take. Gates had some jokes (and modesty) of his own in his emailed reply:

"Since both Warren and I have committed the bulk of our wealth to charity, we probably don't belong on the list at all. However, I couldn't be happier to cede this position to Warren. This weekend when we played golf he saved money by not buying a golf glove and using Band-Aids instead. It didn't work too well but he saved a few bucks. I suppose that was the key here rather than the increase in Berkshire's stock price. When we play this weekend I may have to try playing even without Band-Aids to get an edge on him."

While Buffett is notoriously reluctant to spend money on extravagances like golf gloves, his rise to number one is indeed due more to a strong performance by Berkshire Hathaway's stock, and Microsoft's plunge last month after it revealed an unsolicited bid for Yahoo .

Questions? Comments? Email me at buffettwatch@cnbc.com

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