What are Warren Buffett’s most fun investments outside of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A, BRK-B)? Usually the ones where you make the most money, the legendary billionaire said at the 2019 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting on Saturday, May 4, exclusively live streamed on Yahoo Finance.
But Buffett has one in mind, a peculiarly tiny company that was actually a duck hunting club.
“One time I bought one share of stock in the Atled Corp,” he said. “Atled had 98 shares outstanding and I bought one — not what you’d call a liquid security.”
The “company” had just been 100 guys from St. Louis who had put in $50 each — two defaulted, hence the 98. They called it the Delta Duck Club.
‘I didn’t have any cash at the time’
“They shot ducks, but apparently someone shot into the ground and oil sprouted out,” Buffett said. They decided to rename the company Atled — “delta” backwards.
Buffett said that the company eventually sold. The shares had gone from $100 to $29,000 per share in just a few years, when Buffett bought. At the time, the company had $20,000 in cash per share and was earning royalties of $11,000 — making it very attractive.
Had they not sold, the shares would have been worth millions today, he said.
“That was certainly the most interesting thing,” he said. “I didn’t have any cash at the time and I went down and borrowed money — I bought it for my wife. The loan officer said, would you like to borrow money for a shotgun as well?”
This Buffett story is less well-trodden than others in his repertoire, but the Oracle of Omaha has occasionally mentioned Atled over the years. In the 1995 shareholders meeting, he told the story of the Delta Duck Club as an example of a “cigar butt,” a company that has a little more use out of it despite appearances.
“When you get down to one duck club membership, well, you're really scavenging for cigar butts,” quipped Charlie Munger, Berkshire’s longtime vice chairman and Buffett’s business partner.
But Buffett noted that this “fun” Atled buy was actually an example of problems in the markets — a problem that he used to make a lot of money.
“I use that sometimes as an example of efficient markets because somebody called me and offered me a share of it,” he said at the 1995 shareholders meeting. “Is that an efficient market or not?”
Clearly, the numbers simply did not add up.
“$29,000 for $20,000 of cash, plus $11,000 of royalty income at 25 cent gas and $3 oil?” he mused at the time, “I don’t think so.”
Certainly a very good deal at the time for Buffett. And for the billionaire, that’s fun.
As he put it, "They're always more fun when you make a lot of money off of them.”