Buffett Snubs Goldman Bankers With Quirky Takeover Price
(Bloomberg) -- Warren Buffett is telegraphing his disdain for Wall Street bankers with an oddball price on his latest multibillion-dollar takeover.
The $848.02 for every share that Alleghany Corp. stockholders get from Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is the result of Buffett balking at the banking fee being set aside by the target company -- in this case for Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which is advising the insurer.
Berkshire had offered to pay $850 a share with Buffett cautioning Alleghany that he didn’t want to foot the bill for the banking fees, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified discussing private information. So any fee for a financial adviser would come out of the proceeds for Alleghany’s shareholders. The result is spelled out in a regulatory filing: an announced purchase price that subtracts roughly $27 million for Goldman -- calling attention to Buffett’s stand.
The 91-year-old has historically expressed disdain for investment bankers, calling them among the expensive “money-shufflers” who “clamor to be fed” in his annual letter released in 2015. When he was a shareholder and director of Gillette Co., he pushed unsuccessfully in 1996 to slash such fees to Duracell International Inc.’s bankers as part of Gillette’s acquisition of the battery company.
Representatives for Goldman and Alleghany declined to comment. Buffett’s assistant didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.
The transaction is Berkshire’s largest since 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While deal prices typically reflect the back-and-forth between buyers and sellers, it gets smoothed over before the deal is struck. Most announcements are priced to avoid clunky numbers after both sides agree on a plan for how advisers are paid.
The Oracle of Omaha, known for his witty business aphorisms, rarely uses an investment bank with his deals, instead relying on Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger’s previous law firm, Munger, Tolles & Olson, to advise on acquisitions.
There have been exceptions. Byron Trott, a former Goldman Sachs banker who helped Buffett strike a deal to buy food-distribution business McLane from Walmart Inc., was one of the rare bankers who won grudging respect from Buffett.
“He understands Berkshire far better than any investment banker with whom we have talked and -- it hurts me to say this -- earns his fee,” Buffett said in his letter released in 2004.
Buffett was previously a longtime investor in Goldman, acquiring a preferred stock stake and warrants in the bank at the height of the financial crisis. In 2020, Berkshire exited the last of his remaining investment in the bank.
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