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Warren Buffett, Media Master

Managers of media crises, take note: Buffett is the master.

How smart is Warren Buffett? This man should give a master class in media management.

Fifteen hours after disclosing that heir apparent David Sokol would be leaving the firm(officially because he wanted to spend more time with his family, but most believe because Sokol had bought shares of Lubrizol before a deal to purchase the company was announced), there Mr. Sokol was, on Squawk Box, insisting he did nothing wrong.

Knowing Mr. Buffett's ethics and investment principles, it's not hard to imagine him throwing his hands in the air and saying to Mr. Sokol, "You get out ahead of this story now, and explain what happened."

And indeed he did, grilled by our Becky Quick and Joe Kernenin front of the whole world, while most people would be hunkered down with their lawyers. And make no mistake, Sokol was smooth. He was good. But it still looked bad for him.

It's not clear what—if any—fallout there will be to Mr. Buffett. But by acting decisively and putting his man out there, Buffett showed his mastery of the first principle of media crisis management: get out ahead of the story, control the headlines, and do not let the media lead you around by the nose.

Berkshire down 2 percent pre-open.

Elsewhere:

1) Inflation is in the air again today:

a) Wal-Mart U.S. CEO saying that consumers face 'serious' inflation for clothing and food;

b) Hershey raised wholesale prices on most products by nearly 10 percent due to higher costs for sugar, cocoa and dairy products, but still reaffirms its full-year earnings growth outlook to up 6-8 percent, a bit below the 9 percent growth expected by the Street;

c) Yesterday, lighting fixture maker Acuity Brands said it was raising prices 5 to 7 percent on higher spot steel and other commodity prices;

d) CPI in the Eurozone was up 2.6 percent year-over-year in March.

2) CarMax falls 1.5 percent despite topping estimates by a penny. Same-store sales of its used cars rose a strong 12 percent in the quarter. That came even as the auto dealer saw "its toughest comparison of the year." Helping its top line - improving traffic and a 4 percent rise in used car selling prices.

3) Another well-known name goes public: vitamin maker GNC is set to price its IPO tonight for trading tomorrow; 22.5 m shares at $15-$17.


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  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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