Jamie Dimon put his pal Warren Buffett on the stage at a fancy dinner on Wednesday, March 4, so a few select high rollers could hear Buffett’s folksy musings in a more intimate setting than CNBC.
Dimon, CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM), and his vice chairman, Jimmy Lee, invited the famed investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A) to be the main attraction at their annual off-the-record “CEO summit” for 150 or so corporate titans. Among them: Alibaba founder (and newly minted billionaire) Jack Ma, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, CBS CEO Les Moonves, Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, hedge-fund magnate Dan Loeb, and Mary Pat Christie, wife of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Most in attendance were J.P. Morgan clients.
Attendees were sworn to secrecy, but we hear the highlight of the event, held at 270 Park Ave. in Manhattan (JPM HQ), was an interview Charlie Rose of CBS conducted with Buffett, who once again tops Forbes’ annual list of the world’s richest people, with an astounding net worth of $72 billion.
The most memorable line came when Buffett explained what he looks for in employees. Buffett said he values three things: Integrity, energy and smarts. But if they don’t have integrity, Buffett said, it's best if they don't have energy or smarts, either. Better that they're lazy and stupid.
A J.P. Morgan spokesperson declined to comment on the event.
Buffett and Dimon form a kind of mutual admiration society, with each publicly praising the other from time to time. Dimon once said of Buffett: “I've been a student of Warren's my whole business career." And like other CEOs, he’s traveled to Buffett’s home town of Omaha for advice from the owner of the world’s most successful conglomerate.
Buffett, for his part, has praised Dimon’s stewardship of J.P. Morgan, even though Dimon stumbled during the “London whale” trading fiasco in 2012, and the bank paid a $13 billion fine to settle federal charges of mortgage abuse leading up to the 2008 financial meltdown—which also occurred during Dimon’s watch. Buffett, while condemning banker greed in general, seems to have no problem with the $20 million in annual pay Dimon earns.
At the CEO dinner, Buffett also reprised themes from his annual letter to Berkshire shareholders, in which he offered assurances the firm had lined up a successor—who remains unnamed—to take over the company once the 84-year-old Buffett no longer leads it. The oracle of Omaha also peppered the letter with his usual advice about shunning overcomplicated investments and the people who peddle them. No such folks were in the J.P. Morgan audience, of course.
Rick Newman’s latest book is Liberty for All: A Manifesto for Reclaiming Financial and Political Freedom. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.