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Warren Buffet’s protégé who landed job at company after writing him letter sets up her own firm

Tracy Britt Cool, 37, started at Berkshire Hathaway in 2009 directly out of college after she wrote a letter to owner Warren Buffett. He called her and told to stop by the office if she was ever in Omaha. He then made up a position for her: financial assistant to the chairman

Warren Buffett’s female protégé, who first landed a job at his company after writing him a letter following her college graduation, has set up her own private equity firm.

Tracy Britt Cool, 37, founded Kanbrick – a combination of Kansas and Brick – with Brian Humphrey in 2020 after she spent 11 years working for Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. 

The cofounders named the company after their home state and their idea that good businesses are built brick-by-brick. 

Cool first started at Buffett’s conglomerate in 2009, when she was just 24-years-old and a recent college graduate. Her first position at the company, ‘Financial Assistant to the Chairman,’ was made up by Buffett himself.

She got the job after writing him a letter to ask for a job and she, unexpectedly, got a phone call back telling her to stop by his office if she found herself in Omaha, Nebraska, where Buffett famously resides. 

‘What do you take to a meeting with a billionaire?’ Cool recalled thinking at the time in an interview with The New York Times. She would settle on a gift of sweet corn and tomatoes, a nod to her growing up on a farm and their shared Midwesterner roots. 

Cool and Buffett weren’t complete strangers when she walked into his office in 2009, she had met him three times as a student, including on Smart Woman Securities – a women’s investment group she founded at Harvard. 

Cool would go on to be a standout at the company and become one of the few female executives at Berkshire Hathaway. 

Tracy Britt Cool, 37, started at Berkshire Hathaway in 2009 directly out of college after she wrote a letter to owner Warren Buffett. He called her and told to stop by the office if she was ever in Omaha. He then made up a position for her: financial assistant to the chairman

Tracy Britt Cool, 37, started at Berkshire Hathaway in 2009 directly out of college after she wrote a letter to owner Warren Buffett. He called her and told to stop by the office if she was ever in Omaha. He then made up a position for her: financial assistant to the chairman 

Buffett (pictured at billionaires summer camp in Sun Valley) has since given his blessing on her new advance, Kanbrick, which has similar values to his own company

Buffett (pictured at billionaires summer camp in Sun Valley) has since given his blessing on her new advance, Kanbrick, which has similar values to his own company 

Tracy Britt Cool, 37, founded Kanbrick - a combination of Kansas and Brick - with Brian Humphrey (pictured) in 2020 after she spent 11 years working for Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.

Tracy Britt Cool, 37, founded Kanbrick – a combination of Kansas and Brick – with Brian Humphrey (pictured) in 2020 after she spent 11 years working for Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

As a blonde-haired, blue-eyed young woman, beginning her career in a ‘very difficult’ company culture, Cool said she put her head down and did the work.

‘It’s not a culture of coddling you or training you,’ Robert Miles, who has written several books about Berkshire, told the NYT. ‘But she got a first-hand look at what Berkshire does.’  

Cool’s business acumen developed as a result of Berkshire’s growing portfolio. The company, which started out by acquiring businesses like Dairy Queen and Benjamin Moore, eventually became the $600billion conglomerate it is today, leaving little time for Buffett to focus on smaller acquisitions. 

Buffett entrusted Cool to travel and meet with their CEOs. In doing so, she began building other connections — which would eventually lead her to become the chief executive for Pampered Chef in 2014 when she was pregnant with her first child. 

Cool spent 11 years at the Berkshire before breaking out on her own in 2020

Cool spent 11 years at the Berkshire before breaking out on her own in 2020

Berkshire had purchased the company in 2002, but the profit margin was declining as customers moved to digital sales. Within five years of moving into the role as chief executive and placing her would-be cofounder into the CFO position, the company would move more than 50 percent of its sale from parties to online. 

The founder of the company, Doris Christopher, told the NYT that Cool was a ‘thoughtful and decisive leader.’ 

She would go on to help other companies like NetJets, which would lead Buffett to calling her a ‘fireman’ in a Wall Street Journal interview in 2020. 

‘Anything I’ve assigned her, she’s done a first-class job on,’ he said at the time. 

Buffett and Cool were close and would dine weekly at Piccolo Pete, one of the Omaha restaurants he frequented. 

He even walked her down the aisle in 2013 when she married her attorney husband Scott Cool, as her father had passed away. 

Now, with Buffett’s blessing — who said her new venture reminded him of himself when he started his own firm — she is taking all the knowledge she acquired at Berkshire, to pave her own way. 

The front of the house where Buffett started his business Berkshire Hathaway

The front of the house where Buffett started his business Berkshire Hathaway 

The door to the sunroom features Buffett's signature and the words: 'The birthplace of Buffett Associates May 1956'

The door to the sunroom features Buffett’s signature and the words: ‘The birthplace of Buffett Associates May 1956’

Although she insisted to the NYT that her and Humphrey’s business was not a copycat of Buffett’s, it does have similar values, such as holding on to businesses for the long term, unlike other private equity companies that typically let them go after a few a years. 

However, she does plan to be much more involved in the companies she acquires, unlike Buffett. 

Kanbrick will also host programs to help CEOs learn how to grow their businesses.

Her family has since made the move to Tennessee and her husband — who she met in an elevator — is doing most of the childrearing, in order to let her have the ‘flexibility’ to work, she told the Times. 

‘He spends a lot of time with our kids,’ she told the outlet. 

She’s now ready to keep growing her business, telling the Times: ‘I try to stay humble, to learn and grow. If I do those things, there won’t be failure.’ 

Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, rides to the Sun Valley 'camp for billionaires' conference in a red jacket and light khakis on July 6, 2022

Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, rides to the Sun Valley ‘camp for billionaires’ conference in a red jacket and light khakis on July 6, 2022

Buffett, the fifth wealthiest man on the planet, lambasted Wall Street at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting in April, telling investors that the market encourages risky behavior in the stock market that turns it into a ‘gambling parlor.’

Buffett criticized investment banks and brokerages to a crowd of tens of thousands of investors at his annual shareholder meeting at Omaha Arena, saying that Wall Street makes ‘a lot more money when people are gambling than when they’re investing.’

‘Wall Street makes money, one way or another, catching the crumbs that fall off the table of capitalism,’ he said. ‘They don’t make money unless people do things, and they get a piece of them.’ 

Large American companies have become ‘poker chips’ for market speculation, he said, citing an increase in call options and said brokers make more money off bets than simple investments.

But amid that environment, he said, his company Berkshire Hathaway seized an opportunity, spending more than $50 billion on stocks in the first quarter of 2022.

Who is Warren Buffett?

Warren Buffett is worth an estimated $88billion

Warren Buffett is worth an estimated $88billion 

The American business investor, who was born in Nebraska in August 1930,  is the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, which wholly owns companies such as Geico and Dairy Queen and parts of Cocoa Cola, Kraft Heinz and Apple. 

Buffett began buying up stock in Berkshire Hathaway, which started as a textile manufacturing firm, in the 1960s. 

He assumed control of the company in 1965 and phased out its manufacturing interests before buying interests in the Washington Post, insurance firm Geico and oil company Exxon. 

The firm has gone on to become one of the largest investment companies in the world, with assets of more than $700billion. 

Buffett purchased his first shares, in an Oklahoma oil company, at the age of 11. 

In 1952, he married his first wife Susan Thompson and the couple had three children – Susan, Howard and Peter – before 1960. 

Susan Buffett died in 2004 from a cerebral hemorrhage after suffering from cancer and Mr Buffett went on to marry his second wife Astrid in 2006. 

In 2006, Mr Buffett announced plans to give more than 80 per cent of his wealth away to charity.

Buffett’s key moments

  • August 30 1930 – Buffett is born in Omaha, Nebraska to Leila and Howard Buffett
  • 1942 – Buffett buys his first stock, aged 11
  • 1952 – Marries Susan Thompson
  • 1957 – Purchased a house in Omaha for little more than $30,000 and still lives there  
  • 1965 – Takes control of Berkshire Hathaway, which at that point is a struggling textile business
  • 1991 – Becomes chairman of investment bank Solomon Brothers  to try to save the struggling firm from being consumed by crisis.
  • 1996 – Buys insurance firm Geico
  • 2004 – his first wife Susan dies 
  • 2006 – Pledges to give away 85 per cent of his wealth  

 

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