A great anecdote from Warren Buffett’s appearance on CNBC this morning involved Steve Jobs.

Two years ago Steve Jobs called up Buffett and said “We’ve got all this cash. Warren, what should we do with it?”

After discussing several options, Buffett recommended repurchasing Apple stock, which Jobs said he knew was undervalued.

Jobs didn’t take his advice, deciding instead to sit on his cash.

At the time Apple stock was trading around $200. Now it trades at $522.

If only it were that easy.

Warren Buffett says Barclays approached him about insuring Lehman’s asset, while it was considering a bid for the teetering investment bank last September. But when Buffett asked Barclays for more information, he never received it,

Turns out, Barclay’s chief Robert Diamond had left Buffett a voice mail on his cell phone with the information, but Buffett said he didn’t know how to retrieve it. Buffett revealed this anecdote about his unchecked voice mail on Tuesday during Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit.

The implication — raised here in a blog post by Time magazine’s Karen Tumulty — is that Lehman’s bankruptcy, and by extension the financial crisis may have been averted, or at least minimized, if Buffett knew how to use his cell phone.


If the Oracle from Omaha really thought he could profit from insuring Lehman’s assets, he would have followed up with Diamond. Likewise, if Diamond thought he had a realistic chance of closing a deal with Buffett, don’t you think he would have likely lobbed a follow up call.

Remember all the persistent phone calling that went on that weekend. How many times did Lehman’s chief Dick Fuld try to reach Bank of America chief Ken Lewis at home that weekend?

It was like a big phone tree, as bankers burned through their rolodex looking for possible saviors of Lehman’s toxic assets. Everyone from sovereign wealth funds to private equity bigwig Chris Flowers was getting calls to kick the tires on Lehman and American International Group Inc. (Flowers also passed).

Buffett may not know how to use a cell phone, but he’s pretty savvy about avoiding terrible investments. That was one call he has to be glad he never answered.

Warren Buffett revealed during his Swiss news conference today that he broke his toe last week during a visit to the home of his “extremely good friend” Bill Gates.

And, he quipped, if his lawsuit against Gates is successful, he’ll be able to increase his lead over the Microsoft chairman on the Forbes list of global billionaires.  Buffett is currently number one on that list, followed by Gates.