Billionaire Warren Buffett said Tuesday there’s no chance his friend Bill Gates will return to lead Microsoft Corp. as CEO because he’s enjoying leading the world’s biggest foundation too much.
During an appearance Tuesday on Bloomberg media, Buffett was asked about whether Gates might return to Microsoft when current CEO Steve Ballmer retires in less than a year.
Buffett said Gates is doing what he loves leading the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and tackling difficult challenges like trying to eradicate polio.
“I think that he is doing exactly what he wants to do in life, and he’s doing it well,” Buffett said. “He has got more than a full-time job at the Gates Foundation, and obviously cares about Microsoft, but he’s not going back.”
Buffett and Gates are close friends, and Buffett has entrusted the Gates Foundation with giving away the bulk of his fortune over time. Gates also serves on the board of Buffett’s Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. conglomerate.
Buffett also reiterated his praise for JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon, even after the bank reportedly agreed to a $13 billion settlement with the government over its sales of mortgage-backed securities.
Buffett said Dimon “had a gun to his head” and had to agree to pay what the government asked to address concerns about the quality of mortgage-backed securities it sold in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.
“You have no ability if you’re a financial institution and you’re threatened with criminal prosecution, you have no ability to negotiate,” he said.
Buffett said Dimon has done a great job running JPMorgan, and the country is better off because that bank acquired Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns during the financial crisis.
“I think he helped out the economy enormously by when he took on Bear Stearns without — and he didn’t get an indemnification clause,” he said.
Buffett appeared at the interview alongside his son, Howard G. Buffett, and grandson, Howard W. Buffett, to promote the younger Buffetts’ new book “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World.”
The book is centered on the idea, adapted from Howard Buffett’s farming background, that everyone gets only about 40 years to make a difference in the world, and tells stories of the lessons he’s learned leading the foundation while trying to fight hunger and help farmers.
“I think one of the things that’s been missing in philanthropy for a long time, and we talk about it in ’40 Chances,’ is that businesses a lot of times for years have been seen kind of as the evil empire. And NGOs, non-governmental organizations, didn’t want to really partner with them,” Howard Buffett said. “Business has to be part of the solution.”
Warren Buffett said one of the challenges of philanthropy is there really isn’t a competitive market to test what ideas are working, so donors have to be smart.
Buffett is gradually giving his fortune to five foundations and entrusting them to distribute it. Besides the Gates Foundation, each of Buffett’s three children run their own foundations giving away part of his wealth, and a fourth family foundation – named in honor of Buffett’s first wife – also receives a share.
“I would say the most satisfying thing actually is watching my three children each pick up on their own interests and work many more hours per week than most people that have jobs at trying to intelligently give away that money in fields that they particularly care about,” Warren Buffett said.