In the great scheme of things, Warren Buffett's visit Thursday to the Richline Group of Mount Vernon, New York, was not a big deal. No multi-billion dollar deals were announced, no great new policy declarations were made, and thousands of people didn't turn out for the event.
Richline is a jewelry manufacturer and distributor that was bought by Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway last year. The company, in a suburb just north of New York City, had just completed a $1 million, three-month interior renovation and Buffett was there for a ceremonial ribbon cutting.
According to an account by in the The Journal News, a local newspaper that covers Westchester County, Buffett arrived exactly on time with no entourage, assistants, or handlers. (When I covered Buffett's testimony before a Senate committee last fall, I was surprised to see that he had arrived entirely on his own, an hour early, and was quietly waiting at the witness table for things to get underway.)
He joked, as he often does at similar occaisions, that cutting ribbons is "the only thing I'm good for, actually."
He posed for photographs, including one in the paper in which Buffett pretends to fight for control of his wallet with Mount Vernon's mayor. (Fighting for Buffett's wallet appears to be a favorite photo-op for him. I've seen it several times in photos he's taken with CNBC crew members on location and it's mentioned by some of the college students who make the trek to Omaha.)
Buffett didn't give a long-winded speech. He simply repeated the guiding principal that makes Berkshire so popular among the companies it's acquired over the years:
"We trust our managers. They've earned that trust. They've delivered over the years, and we let them run their businesses. I take no credit for any of their successes, and I take no blame for any of their failures."
All in all, it was unremarkable. And that makes it incredible.
Buffett is the world's richest man. He has billions of dollars at his command. People are willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just to have lunch with him. And yet, he can drop by for a visit to what the newspaper describes as an "undistinguished" building in a "drab industrial neighborhood" .. and it's no big deal.
It's a quintessential example of the common touch that's helped Buffett win over so many admirers over the decades and around the world.
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