Buffett will leave Post Co.'s board

Warren Buffett, 80, plans to step down in May when his term as a director expires.
Warren Buffett, 80, plans to step down in May when his term as a director expires.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 21, 2011

Warren E. Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, said Thursday that he would step down from the board of The Washington Post Co. in May when his term as a director expires.

Buffett, 80, has long advised The Post Co.'s chairman and chief executive, Donald E. Graham, on the financial stewardship of the company. He was also an adviser and close personal friend of Graham's mother and predecessor as chairman, the late Katharine Graham.

Berkshire Hathaway is the largest shareholder in The Post, with 21 percent of the common stock, and Buffett said in an interview that he does not intend to alter his stake. The Graham family controls the company through its ownership of a separate class of stock.

"It won't change at all," Buffett said. "I'll never back away from that statement." He predicted that his obituary, which he said he hoped would not be published anytime soon, would say that he owned the same number of shares of The Post Co.

But, he said, "the newspaper business will be tougher and tougher and tougher, and it is already plenty tough." Although he said the newspaper is "the centerpiece of The Post Co., that doesn't mean that it will earn the most money."

The company's Kaplan education division, shaken recently by criticism of recruiting practices and the threat of tougher federal regulations, accounts for about two-thirds of total revenue.

The Berkshire Hathaway chairman said he is leaving The Post's board because of travel commitments linked to Berkshire Hathaway's acquisitions abroad. He said he has given up his seats on other corporate boards, including the Coca-Cola Co. board last year. "I have $12 billion worth of its stock," he said. "I'll never lose my attachment to it, but it was six days in Atlanta.

"I've got lots of energy, but I am 80," he said. "I love this place, but it's gotten to the point where I only have 365 days in a year."

Buffett is the second Post Co. director to resign recently. Melinda French Gates, wife of Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, resigned in November. She also cited competing time commitments.

The legendary investor, chairman of the finance committee of the Post Co. board, has served nearly 26 years on the board, from 1974 to 1986 and from May 1996 to now.

Earlier, in a prepared statement, Donald Graham said, "For most of the last 37 years, we've been privileged to have on our board perhaps the best adviser any company could have had throughout that period."

Graham said he will still regularly seek advice from Buffett. "Warren has encouraged us to continue to consult him on Company matters and with the encouragement of our board, calls to the 402 area code will not be decreasing," Graham said in the statement, alluding to Buffett's base of operations in Omaha.

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