Warren Buffett bought his first Berkshire Hathaway shares for $7.50 each, 55 years ago today

Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

In December of 1962, Warren Buffett was 32 years old and gaining notoriety as an investor in Omaha, Neb. But at the time, his strategy wasn't the "buy and hold" philosophy that he is now known for.

Instead, he was looking to buy low-priced stocks — ones from companies that weren't necessarily well-run businesses but that could prove profitable investments because of their rock-bottom prices.  

"If [the stocks] were cheap enough, he didn't care it was a lousy company and lousy management. He knew he was going to make money anyways because of the cheapness," Charlie Munger says in HBO's documentary, "Becoming Warren Buffett."

One such investment was Berkshire Hathaway.

"I bought the first shares of Berkshire in 1962 and it was a northern textile business destined to become extinct eventually," Buffett says in the documentary. "It was a statistically cheap stock and a terrible business."

The textile company, headquartered in New Bedford, Mass., was in bad shape, but Buffett saw an opportunity where others saw a lost cause.

"Berkshire Hathaway was closing mills, and as they closed mills it would free up some capital, and then they would re-purchase shares," he explains. "So I bought some stock with the idea that there would be another tender offer at some point, and we would sell the stock at a modest profit." He first purchased shares on Dec. 12, 1962 for $7.50 each.

Buffett was just an investor in the business like any other until a dispute arose. The management of the company offered to pay Buffett $11.50 for his shares, but later lowered the amount.

"The tender offer came out a few months later and it was at $11.375, an eighth of a point cheaper," Buffett says. He felt cheated.

"That made me very mad, so I just started buying more stock," He continues. "I just felt that I had been double-crossed by the management. In May of 1965, I bought enough so we controlled the company, and we changed the management." 

The famously rational investor admits the tender offer came roughly five days after his father, Howard Buffett had died in 1964. "Whether that had affected me or not, I don't know," he says.

That business became the foundation for what is now a globally renown holding company with a market cap of more than $492 billion. It has posted a compounded annual gain of nearly 21 percent since 1965, when Buffett first took over, according to Berkshire's 2016 annual report.

More than five decades since Buffett paid $7.50 a share, Berkshire's class A stock was trading at $298,710 at the time of publication. According to InsiderScore, Buffett currently owns 282,611 class A shares. 

Buffett's net worth is $85.6 billion, according to Forbes. He's committed to giving 99 percent of his fortune away to charity.

Don't miss:  Here's how much grad school cost when Warren Buffett graduated in 1951, compared to today

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