Warren Buffett, American Railroad Baron
Following in the greatest of capitalist traditions, the Oracle of Omaha announced plans to buy up the shares he doesn’t already own in one of the country’s biggest railroads, Burlington Northern Santa Fe. And in an egalitarian, if unexpected, move, he said he would split his Class B stock to the tune of 50-to-1, making it possible for just about anyone to own Berkshire Hathaway’s traditionally lofty shares.
The railroad purchase is a bet on the future of America, Buffett said, and it’s his biggest acquisition ever. It values the railroad at $34 billion, and the price of $100 a share is a premium of nearly 32 percent. The premium vaults the railroad into the top spot by market cap, surpassing Union Pacific.
Buffett also owns stakes in other railroads, so it will be interesting to see if his move stirs any antitrust comments from Washington. Idiomatically, there is something profoundly rural in the Americana of Buffett’s latest bet; much more so than Berkshire Hathaway’s mainstay insurance business.