Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s unlikely friendship: the billionaire CEOs ‘weren’t thrilled’ to meet at first ... now the Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway CEOs have been tight for 30 years

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet: fast friends. Photo: @marciojmsilva/Twitter

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are very close friends who have partnered in philanthropy, political activism ... and online bridge. Their iconic friendship began almost 30 years to the day on Fourth of July weekend, 1991.

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Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett plays table tennis with Microsoft chairman Bill Gates in Omaha in May 2013 the day after Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting. Photo: Reuters

Buffett was visiting Meg Greenfield, a Washington Post editor based in Washington state at the time, he recalled at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting in 2000. Greenfield was friends with Gates’ parents, so she took Buffett down to visit them. Gates initially had no interest in meeting Buffett as he had little respect for the investor’s livelihood.

“I didn’t even want to meet Warren because I thought, ‘Hey, this guy buys and sells things, and so he found imperfections in terms of markets – that’s not value added to society, that’s a zero-sum game that is almost parasitic.’ That was my view before I met him ... he wasn’t going to tell me about inventing something,” Gates said at a conference in 2019.

Microsoft founder and co-Chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, takes part in a conference call in Lyon, France, during the funding conference of Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria in October 2019. Photo: AFP

However, Gates changed his mind after Buffett began peppering him with “amazingly good questions that nobody had ever asked”, he recalled in a 2016 blog post.

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Buffett wasn’t thrilled to meet Gates either, but he quickly warmed to the Microsoft co-founder.

Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett walks through the exhibit hall as shareholders gather to hear from the billionaire investor at Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s annual shareholder meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, US, in May 2019. Photo: Reuters

“We hit it off immediately,” the investor said in 2000. “We had a great time. He had this chimpanzee to whom he was going to try and explain this technical stuff. But I was kind of an interesting chimpanzee to him, and he’s a terrific teacher.”

The fateful meeting ultimately led to Buffett pledging in 2006 to give virtually all of his wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and four other foundations. He reached the halfway mark towards that goal last month, and decided it was the right time to resign as a trustee of the Gates Foundation.
Warren Buffett, Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates stand together in June 2006, in New York, soon after Buffett’s announcement that he would be starting to make an annual donation of about US$1.5 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Photo: AP Photo/Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Buffett and Gates have engaged in plenty of antics over the past three decades, from competing in newspaper-tossing and table-tennis competitions, to buying lunch at McDonald’s with coupons and picking up a shift at Berkshire-owned Dairy Queen. Gates also baked a cake to celebrate Buffett’s 90th birthday last fall.

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Leading US businessmen Warren Buffett and Bill Gates speak at the nationwide launch ceremony of Chinese electric vehicle BYD M6 in Beijing in September 2010. Photo: AFP PHOTO

Given their special bond, both billionaires must be very happy that they didn’t skip that Fourth of July gathering 30 years ago.

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This article originally appeared on Business Insider

  • Meeting on Fourth of July weekend, 1991, led to Buffett pledging to donate virtually all his wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other foundations
  • Gates ‘didn’t even want to meet’ Buffett and thought his investments ‘parasitic’ – since then the pair’s antics have included McDonald’s lunches together