Sokol to CNBC: I Shouldn't Have Told Buffett I Liked Lubrizol
Repeatedly insisting that he did nothing wrong, David Sokol tells CNBC that looking back in light of widespread criticism, he still would have bought shares in Lubrizol, but wouldn't have told Warren Buffett anything about the company, including his belief that it would be a good acquisition for Berkshire Hathaway.
Last night's news release announcing Sokol's surprise resignation as one of Berkshire's top executives included several paragraphs on Sokol's purchase of Lubrizol stock before he recommended it to Buffett as a potential acquisition.
Berkshire ultimately did buy the company for $9 billion earlier this month, sending its stock higher and increasing the value of Sokol's holdings by around $3 million.
That has many on Wall Street asking if Sokol did something improper, if not illegal.
During a live, exclusive interview this morning on CNBC's Squawk Box, Becky Quick asked him, "If you had to do it over, seeing the hoopla that's broken out, if you had to do it over, would you change your mind on it?"
"Knowing today what I know, what I would do differently is I just would never have mentioned it to Warren, and just made my own investment and left it alone. I think that's a disservice to Berkshire, but if that's what people want to do in the future, that's fine. You can't, or at least I don't think you can, ask executives to not invest their own family's capital in a company that Berkshire had no interest, or even knowledge of, and somehow police that. The only thing you can do is just say if you invest your own money, don't ever mention it to anybody at Berkshire. That doesn't make sense to me either, but that's certainly what it sounds like."
During the interview, Sokol said he had no special insider knowledge, and never does. He didn't think Buffett would actually be interested in buying Lubrizol, and had no role at all in Berkshire's decision-making process on acquisitions and investments.
If he had been involved in actually making the decision, Sokol says he would not have bought the shares.
Sokol told us his decision to resign had nothing to do with the Lubrizol share purchases.
Instead, he said that for years he's wanted to step back, invest his family's money and build his own "mini-Berkshire." Although he's been widely seen as the leading candidate to eventually succeed Buffett as Berkshire's CEO, Sokol said he didn't want the job and "the reality is Warren's not going anywhere."
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