Warren Buffett is no NR Narayanamurthy. For one, he was never a dedicated Marxist at any point of his time. For another, unlike the Infosys Chief Mentor, Mr Buffett drives his own car to work. But there is a similar reticence in both these immensely financially endowed gentlemen — Mr Buffett toppling Bill Gates this year to claim the world’s richest person crown — to flash their cash. Quite often, this inability on the part of the CEO and Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway to be a conspicuous consumer is mistaken as a simple unwillingness. The truth of the matter is some people like Mr Buffett — and unlike your neighbours with their fountain in the living room — are unwilling to make a scene about being rich because they are hardwired to ‘keep it simple’.
Mr Buffett has not taken a salary hike for the last quarter of a century, pays back his company expenses such as phone charges and is content with his annual salary of $ 100,000, a pittance for CEOs even in these post-Enron days. The fact that his Chief Financial Officer gets four times Mr Buffett’s salary reassures us that he’s not the kind of person who wants everyone to relinquish their desire to purchase things. That the world’s biggest philanthropist doesn’t have a Mahatma-like dogma about spending money once in a blue moon was made apparent when he spent $ 9.7 million of company funds on a business jet in 1989. He named the plane ‘The Indefensible’ referring to his past criticisms of such purchases by other CEOs. (He still doesn’t fly in it for personal trips.)
We admire Mr Buffett for his frugal habits. But we also admire him for not insisting that we, Mr Mallya included, don’t have to follow his style.