Where Buffett Puts His Money (and His Playboys)
Last year, the book value of Berkshire Hathaway dropped 9.6%, its worst showing ever, and only the second decline in its history. The company also lost its AAA rating. As a consequence, the board of directors made Warren Buffett do some time as a salesman at Nebraska Furniture Mart (a Berkshire subsidiary). He actually spent part of the time napping, but did sell at least one mattress. A new kind of mattress. The Nervous Nellie mattress.
That was the story line of one of the skits in this year's Berkshire Hathaway movie. Each year, the annual meeting kicks off with a montage of video clips, gags, celebrity cameos, and lots of commercials for Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries. In the mattress skit, Buffett is trying to sell a bed to a customer who wants something nice and safe, and they settle on the Nervous Nellie -- which allows you to store your valuables under the mattress. The customer wants the display bed, which turns out to be Buffett's. Therefore, he has to take out his stuff, which includes cash, stock certificates, and issues of Playboy. Buffett mutters something like, "Um... those must belong to my grandson."
Pretty funny. But the real joke is that you can actually buy the Nervous Nellie mattress. Here are some photos I took of it in the exhibition hall of the Qwest Center (where the annual meeting is held):
And if you actually visited the Nebraska Furniture Mart, you could buy the Nervous Nellie there (Fool Dan Dzombak costs extra).
By the way, the Nebraska Furniture Mart is HUGE, and sells lots more than furniture, including an impressive selection of electronics. I wonder how Berkshire director Bill Gates feels about the NFM having an Apple area (look toward the back)?