Last week Warren Buffett told 700 Columbia Business School students: “Right now, I would pay $100,000 for 10 percent of the future earnings of any of you.”
Seven hundred Columbia GSB students had crammed into the Roone Arledge Auditorium to hear the Sage of Omaha, accompanied by Bill Gates. Buffett (Columbia class of ’51) helped, if you couldn’t do the math: “Many of you are a million-dollar asset right now.”
There’s nothing unique about Columbia in top-tier MBA company. Buffett would make the equivalent offer to graduates of other top-tier MBA programs.
And I’m sure Buffett’s offer is dead serious — if any top-tier MBA graduate were fool enough to sell at that price! Warren didn’t become the world’s greatest investor by overpaying for his stock, therefore of course he assesses the average future value of Columbia business students at far greater than $1m. (He champions “value investing” — analyzing a company’s real long-term value and buying securities priced well below that.)
Effectively the careful, savvy Buffett is saying he commercially “values” anyone picked by Columbia (or equivalent) Adcom as, at minimum, a million-dollar asset even though he has never met him or her. He trusts Adcoms to have picked the right people, top faculty to have adequately prepared them, and the careers office to be able to place them into high-return jobs, so that his investment would soon show returns.
What this tells you is that the brand value of a top-tier MBA holds up exceedingly well in the eyes of the smartest people, despite the recession, despite alleged MBA complicity in the Credit Crunch, and so on.
There was another lesson for those who would like to be one of the 700 (or equivalent) next year. As reported in Columbia University’s The Record, David Lin, 26, a second-year MBA student from Los Angeles said Buffett’s success “proves you don’t have to be a jerk or have a huge ego to get ahead in this world. He’s a role model for everyone, not just investors.”
As a normal ego, non-jerk, Buffett is an important role model for MBA applicants too.