This is a tension that Buffett and Berkshire shareholders will be forced to navigate as the company plans for a future beyond Buffett, with the famed investor no longer alone calling shots on billion dollar-plus acquisitions and looks to build a bigger global footprint.
3G is a private equity firm that is happy to make unsolicited bids — how it acquired Heinz and how it proposed for Kraft Heinz to acquire Unilever. Buffett always brags that Berkshire only goes where it is wanted. And as a member of the Kraft Heinz board of directors, that is likely one of the reasons why the deal was abandoned when Unilever made it abundantly clear there was no reciprocal interest.
Unilever had good reason to be wary, too.
In 2013, Heinz initially declined the 3G bid, but accepted after 3G upped from $70 to $72.50 and obtaining several promises from 3G to preserve Heinz's Pittsburgh roots and heritage, including keeping headquarters there. Those promises have been proven somewhat hollow since Heinz merged into Kraft, which is based in Chicago. That contrasts sharply with how Warren invariably keeps his promises, even if it means short-term losses. A spectacular case concerned his promise to Benjamin Moore paint dealers to sell exclusively through them, not big box retailers.
When 3G makes an acquisition, it intervenes and downsizes, the opposite of the Berkshire model. 3G's approach is that of a takeover artist and empire builder, not a product manager or developer, which is the core of consumer products companies over the long term.
Shortly after Berkshire closed on the Benjamin Moore deal, concerns from distributors starting coming in. Buffett made a video in which he expressly promised to maintain the system and not sell through big box retailers. Over ensuing years, when two successive CEOs at Moore signaled willingness to break that promise out of business necessity, Buffett intervened to remove them, citing his commitment.