FRI, DEC 22, 2023
Buffett is nation's most popular billionaire - CNBC poll
Warren Buffett came in on top when we asked Americans to "rate their feelings" about some of the country's most prominent business mega-billionaires, including Elon Musk.
None of them, however, managed to get a "positive" rating from even a majority of the randomly selected sample of Americans we polled.
The latest edition of the CNBC All-America Economic Survey has 11% saying they feel "very positive" about Buffett and another 19% are "somewhat positive."
Twenty-eight percent are "neutral," while 9% are "somewhat negative" and 6% are "very negative."
More than a quarter, 26%, didn't recognize his name or are not sure how they feel.
The net differential is +15, the only positive result for the six billionaires we asked about in the poll.
Elon Musk scored higher in the positive column with 35%, but that is completely offset by a 35% negative rating, which is not surprising since people seem to either love him or hate him. Only 11% said they don't know his name or are not sure how they feel about him.
The poll surveyed 1,002 Americans between Dec. 8 to 12, with a margin of error of +/-3.1%.
In this report on "Squawk Box," Steve Liesman looks at the details behind the headline numbers, finding, among other things, that Buffett is especially popular with men aged 50 and above, Democrats, people with stock market investments of more than $50,000, and those with an annual income or more than $75,000:
Berkshire lawyer contends Jimmy Haslam admitted he offered improper payments to PTC executives
The judge overseeing the court battle between Berkshire Hathaway and the family of Jimmy Haslam over their 2019 Pilot Travel Centers (PTC) deal is giving Berkshire's lawyers permission to continue their questioning of the Cleveland Browns owner after they alleged Haslam made a "stunning" admission in a deposition earlier this week.
The AP quotes attorney Ryan Stottmann telling the judge in a hearing yesterday that Haslam testified he has what the AP characterized as "an informal agreement with two dozen PTC employees to reinstate their lucrative executive bonus plan if the Haslams sell their stake in the company."
Berkshire contends the potential payments amount to "bribes" designed to encourage the executives to boost PTC's short-term earnings at the expense of its long-term economic health. Lawyers for the Haslams have called that claim a "wild invention." They have also told the court that Federal prosecutors are looking into the accusation.
The earnings will determine how much the Haslams will receive for their remaining 20% of PTC if it is sold to Berkshire.
Cleveland Browns managing and principal partner Jimmy Haslam before a game between the Browns and the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on December 17, 2022. Photo: USA TODAY Sports | Ken Blaze
According to the AP, Stottmann told the court Haslam "has now confirmed under oath that these were not inventions, but that the shadow executive compensation plan actually exists."
Delaware Chancery Court Judge Morgan Zurn said she is concerned that during the questioning earlier this week Haslam's lawyer told him repeatedly not to answer questions about the informal compensation agreement.
"I’ve heard no basis today for the instruction that the witness not answer the question, which in my view is a remarkable thing to happen in a Delaware deposition."
The Haslams are accusing Berkshire of improperly adopting a new accounting method at PTC after it took control with an 80% stake earlier this year that would "artificially" reduce the truck stop company's earnings.
That, in turn, would lower the price the Haslams would receive if they exercise an option during a 60-day window at the beginning of the new year that would force Berkshire to buy the 20% slice still held by the family.
A trial on that claim is scheduled to begin in early January.
Berkshire buys bring OXY stake to almost 28%
Berkshire Hathaway continued to add to its Occidental Petroleum position this week, although it bought fewer shares at a higher price than it did last week.
In a filing last night, it said it bought a total of 5.2 million shares for $312 million on Tuesday through Thursday of this week.
The average price of $60.22 is well above the $56.16 per share it paid last week when it bought 10.5 million shares for almost $589 million over three days.
The new purchases raise Berkshire's stake in the oil giant to 27.8% from 27.2% last week. Its 243.7 million shares are valued at $14.8 billion based on today's closing price of $60.81.
BUFFETT AROUND THE INTERNET
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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE ARCHIVE
The stock market is a “psychotic drunk” (2012)
BERKSHIRE'S TOP U.S. STOCK HOLDINGS - Dec. 22, 2023
Berkshire's top holdings of disclosed publicly-traded stocks in the U.S., Japan, and Hong Kong, by market value, based on today's closing prices.
Holdings are as of September 30, 2023 as reported in Berkshire Hathaway’s 13F filing on November 14, 2023, except for:
The full list of holdings and current market values is available from CNBC.com's Berkshire Hathaway Portfolio Tracker.
Please send any questions or comments about the newsletter to me at email@example.com. (Sorry, but we don't forward questions or comments to Buffett himself.)
If you aren't already subscribed to this newsletter, you can sign up here.
Also, Buffett's annual letters to shareholders are highly-recommended reading. There are collected here on Berkshire's website.
-- Alex Crippen, Editor, Warren Buffett Watch
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