Property Grunt

Monday, January 05, 2009

Know your role and shut your mouth.

To start off the New Year, I think I am going to rag on people who have a strong sense of entitlement. Why? Because everyone is doing it.

3 years ago, I read this item in Page 6.


September 7, 2006 -- AN infuriated Warren Buffett has renounced one of his granddaughters - telling her she is no longer his relative "legally or emotionally" because she took part in a documentary about the lives of the very rich.
Nicole Buffett, the adopted daughter of Buffett's son Peter and biological daughter of Peter's ex-wife Mary, was featured in Jamie Johnson and Nick Kurzon's documentary, "The One Percent," which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival this year and is a follow-up to Johnson's "Born Rich."

Enraged that Nicole not only participated in the documentary, but also plugged it on National Public Radio and "Oprah," Buffett wrote Nicole an "angry letter" two weeks ago telling her she was no longer part of his life, a source tells Page Six.

Buffett wrote, "I have not emotionally or legally adopted you as a grandchild, nor have the rest of my family adopted you as a niece or a cousin."

"He was angry Nicole was using the Buffett name to promote herself and said he no longer considered her his granddaughter," our source added.

Indeed, asked for comment, a rep for the mega-billionaire said, "Nicole is not Mr. Buffett's granddaughter. She is the daughter of a former daughter-in-law of his who was married to his son for only about 10 years."

This response shocked Nicole's friends. "We have seen pictures of her on his knee when she was 4. She spent family summers with him. She calls him Grandpa and always has. This is amazing," one pal said.

In the movie, Nicole tells interviewers, "I've been very blessed to have my education taken care of, and I have had my living expenses taken care of while I'm in school. After we're out of school, we don't get any money from our family . . . Money is the spoke in my grandfather's wheel of life."

When Nicole received Buffett's letter, she taped another interview with Johnson last week, in which she said: "To pretend like we don't have a familial relationship is not based in reality. I've spent months and years of my life at his home in Omaha with just my twin sister . . . I'm shocked and I'm hurt.

"The fact that now [Buffett] would tell me . . . that you don't consider us real grandchildren is unbelievable, to not only myself and my sister, but to my father."

I was quite shocked to read this. Quite shocked that she had the gall to speak about her grandfather's money. Whether Warren Buffet has 58 Billion or 58 dollars, it is not Nicole's place to talk about it in public.

You could argue that Warren Buffet talks about his money all the time so what is the big deal? That is because it is f**king money. He can talk about it as much as he wants. It may appear that he was being harsh but from where I stand, I think Buffet felt hurt by her actions.

Personally, I thought she got off light with being cut off like that, because if I was Buffet, I would have sent her bill indicating what she owed.

I figured after that, Nicole Buffet would learn her lesson and keep to herself. Nope.
She has to open up her big yap again. Below is my article and my analysis.

The Billionaire's Black Sheep

What's it like when your grandpa is the richest man in the world? For Nicole Buffett, it means forgoing cable TV and health insurance and making do on $40,000 a year. Here, she dishes on her upbringing and why her grandfather Warren Buffett disowned her.

By Leah McGrath Goodman

Nicole Buffett is at home among the neo-hippies who shuffle along the laid-back, tree-lined streets of Berkeley, CA. At an elfin 5 feet tall, clad in a flowing peasant dress and sandals adorned with peace signs, her long hair cascading in ropy dreadlocks to her waist, the 32-year-old abstract painter is just another of the city's free-thinking, granola-crunching denizens. And yet, she's a walking oddity. "The first thing most people think of when they hear my last name is money," she laughs.

Yeah. And? If you don't like it, change your name.

Not just money — gobs of it. Nicole Buffett's grandfather is the legendary investor Warren Buffett, whose $58 billion fortune made him the richest man on the planet, a mantle he seized from Bill Gates last fall. So deep are Buffett's pockets that when the financial markets cratered in September, the so-called Oracle of Omaha single-handedly buoyed Wall Street (at least for a day) by plunking down $5 billion on troubled investment bank Goldman Sachs. ("Canonize Warren Buffett," cried one headline on CNBC's Website.) But there's a bitter irony to Buffett's beneficence. Wall Street's white knight is also an unforgiving hardhead when it comes to his own granddaughter, whom he cut off two years ago after a falling-out. "For him to discard me like that was devastating," Nicole says matter-of-factly. "It permanently divided our family."

So it is his fault that the family is divided? Have you thought about what led him to that decision? Maybe it was because of your actions? Maybe if you hadn't opened up your big mouth like that it would have never come to this.

When Nicole was 4, her singer-songwriter mother married Warren Buffett's youngest child, Peter, a composer for commercials and films. He later adopted Nicole and her identical twin sister, who were embraced as kin by the larger Buffett family — especially Susan, Warren's first wife, an avid music lover and cabaret performer. "A lot of people don't realize that my family is full of artists," says Nicole. (Susan Buffett, who died in 2004, was an early buyer of Nicole's art and named Nicole one of "my adored grandchildren" in her will.)

As a child, Nicole made regular visits to "Grandpa's" modest home in Omaha, where he still lives, purchased in 1958 for $31,500. Despite the humble digs, Nicole remembers the occasional spoils of Buffett's wealth. At Christmas, when she was 5, he gave her a crisp $100 bill from his wallet. Once, she was invited on a private tour of the See's Candies factory he owned. And twice yearly, Peter Buffett packed up his brood for a vacation at his father's compound in Laguna Beach. Nicole also remembers once tiptoeing into her grandfather's study to fetch something, careful not to disturb him while he read the Wall Street Journal. Just as she turned to slip out, Buffett cleared his throat and said, "Nicole, I just want you to know that your grandmother and I are very proud of all that you've accomplished as an artist." "It's a really big deal for him to communicate on such an emotional level," says Nicole, her eyes welling. "So it was a big deal for me."

Then why did you act like that? Why did you speak out of turn? Why did you blab about Grandpa if he meant so much to you. If you feel that strongly about someone, you are going to make every effort be aware of their feelings.

Nicole was clueless about the scope of the Buffett fortune until she was 17, when her grandfather appeared on the cover of Forbes for having topped the magazine's annual list of the richest Americans. Her classmates nearly stampeded her at school with the news. "I called my dad, and he said, 'Yeah, Grandpa is going to be getting a lot more press, and we're going to have to get used to that. But we'll be living our lives the same way and doing what we always do,'" Nicole says.

In fact, the national media debut only intensified Buffett's efforts to preserve his unaffected lifestyle. Aware of the unfairness of what he calls "the ovarian lottery," Buffett made clear to the family that there'd be no handouts. "For most people, your life is largely determined by the wealth you were — or weren't — born into," Nicole explains. "But our family was supposed to be a meritocracy." That philosophy translated into a near-fanatical devotion to living like regular Joes. Buffett's kids went to public schools and, when they were old enough to drive, shared the family car. "You wouldn't guess it, but I grew up in a household with my parents saying, 'If you're fortunate enough to find something you love, then do it,'" says Peter Buffett.

Committed to instilling those homespun values in his grandkids, Buffett agreed to pay for their college educations — and nothing more. He picked up the six-figure tab for Nicole's art school tuition. Once, Nicole called her grandfather's office to ask if he'd help her buy a futon when she moved to an off-campus apartment. "You know what the rules are: school expenses only," his secretary told her.

The deal was a free education, that's it. If she needs other necessities then she should either ask her parents or earn the money on her own. She should be grateful for getting that much. Does she realize the number of people who have to sacrifice their future in order to pay off student loans?

Four years ago, following Susan's death, Buffett showed up for his family's annual Christmas gathering clad in a garishly over-the-top red tracksuit and Santa hat, a gift from "Arnie" (California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger). Everyone laughed at the absurdity of it all. When the holiday ended, Nicole raced into Buffett's arms. "We're not a touchy-feely family, so when I did it, the rest of the family seemed a little surprised," Nicole says, beaming. "But he gave me this great big hug back."

It was the last time the pair would share an embrace. Two years later, Nicole agreed to appear in The One Percent, a documentary by Johnson & Johnson heir Jamie Johnson about the gap between rich and poor in America. "I've been very blessed to have my education taken care of, and I have had my living expenses taken care of while I'm in school," she states on camera. None of the Buffetts, a famously press-averse bunch, had ever before appeared in so public a forum to dish about their upbringing. Though Nicole informed her father of her role in the film and he had no objections, she failed to give her grandfather a heads-up. Asked in the film how he'd react to her interview, Nicole responds, "I definitely fear judgment. Money is the spoke in my grandfather's wheel of life."

Besides the fact she should have never even thought of participating in this documentary, she should have at least gotten the blessing from her grandfather. I suspect she did not because she knew he would say no. This situation she is in now is entirely her own fault.

Nicole concedes that the remarks may have sounded brusque. "I meant that my grandfather is like a Formula One driver who only wants to race — he just loves the game and wants to be the best," she says. But Buffett was galled. He had for some time felt ambivalent about Nicole and her sister's claim to his fortune — though Peter had legally adopted them, he divorced their mother in 1993 and remarried three years later. To make matters worse, while plugging the film on Oprah, Nicole confessed, "It would be nice to be involved with creating things for others with that money and to be involved in it. I feel completely excluded from it."

This just screams of entitlement. Who Buffet allows to create things with his money is up to him. You don't have access to it then too f**king bad. Make your own billions.

I am really p**ed now because the she reminds of this stupid wench, I ran into at Beard Papa's down in the village ac ouple of years back. This girl I think was an NYU student, anyways this girl was about 6 ft 2 200 pounds anyway, she spots a space that is the size of a small child between myself and another guy sitting down. She asks if we can move, we ignore her. Does Andre the Giant take the hint? No. She plops her double wide ass in a space that is only fit for an Olson twin while annoyingly subjecting us to her enormous ass. The coup de grace is when she started pouting and whining. Someone like Miley Cyrus can get away with that but when you are a goth wannabe that could easily be a stand in for one of the American Gladiators, it looks really pathetic.

Nicole Buffet is that enormous fat girl from Beard Papa because she is unable to think of others when she takes these selfish actions. And when she sits her big ass down barely squeezing into a space fit for a child, she wonders why everyone hates her.

The perceived sense of entitlement and Nicole's self-appointed role as family spokesperson prompted Buffett to tell Peter that he'd renounce her. A month later, the mega-billionaire mailed Nicole a letter in which he cautioned her about the pitfalls of the Buffett name: "People will react to you based on that 'fact' rather than who you are or what you have accomplished." He punctuated the letter by declaring, "I have not emotionally or legally adopted you as a grandchild, nor have the rest of my family adopted you as a niece or a cousin." Nicole was devastated. "He signed the letter 'Warren,'" she says. "I have a card from him just a year earlier that's signed 'Grandpa.'"

But Buffett's decision was irrevocable. "I don't have an easy answer for where my father is coming from," says Peter Buffett, who speaks to Nicole regularly. "But I know I can't change the spots on a leopard." Jamie Johnson convinced Nicole to tape a follow-up interview, which he added as an emotional postscript to his film. "To pretend like we don't have a familial relationship is not based in reality. I've spent years of my life at his home in Omaha. I'm shocked and hurt," Nicole says.

You think your shocked and hurt? How do you think he feels? In my opinion he probably feels you view him as an ATM machine and how the hell do you call that a familial relationship? I don't care how long you have bounced on his knee, the moment you betray his trust, all bets are off.

Now, despite her sterling surname, Buffett is getting by on $40,000 or so a year, largely on the sale of her paintings (collectors include Shirley Temple's daughter Lori Black and Hollywood special-effects guru Scott Ross). There's no denying that the Buffett name piques interest in the art world, where Nicole's pieces have fetched as much as $8000. One of her techniques is to leave unfinished works outside, exposed to the elements. "I like to see what happens," she says, hovering over canvases mottled with sunbursts of color.

Nicole supplements her income by working at a San Francisco boutique, but still can't afford cable or health insurance. Since their falling-out, Buffett has begun mailing sizable Christmas checks to his grandchildren, despite his no-freebies rule. Even so, Nicole vigorously insists that she has no regrets. "I think it shows he's trying to reach out to his grandkids in a more personal way," she says, before pausing. "And probably he's rewarding them for behaving."

All parents reward their children in some way for their behavior. It is a way of keeping them in line. Remember when you were a kid and you misbehaved? The usual response was either the threat of elimination of certain privileges, like your Birthday, Disney World or Christmas or Chanukah, depending on your religious background. And if you got an A or did something that showed improvement, maybe you got an ice cream.

All parents do this. Even relatives. I knew a professor who had told his niece that he would pay for her college education but only if she went to Virginia Tech. His ulterior motive was to keep her away from her boyfriend which he greatly disliked who happened to be going to a different college. So did his niece go to the same college as her boyfriend? No. She figured she could fall in love another time but a free education was something she could not pass up.

In the two years since they last spoke, Nicole has been besieged by her grandfather's image. "I can't turn on the TV or read the paper without seeing him," she says, referring to his role in the Wall Street bailout and as Barack Obama's adviser during his presidential bid. She dreams about a reconciliation, however unlikely. Still, she says she'll never stop being a Buffett. "I will always be self-reliant," she says, curled up on her couch, her dreadlocks draping her body like a quilt. "Grandpa taught me that, and it has set the tone for my life."

Oh yeah Nicole, you are so self reliant, especially when you call up to get money for a futon and especially when you are bitching and moaning about being cut off and being excluded from Buffet's bucks.

Family and money are two complicated subjects. When you combine them together, they are practically explosive. When it comes to family inheritances of money, my philosophy is simple; don't think about it and don't rely on it. Support whatever the parents decide. Of course there are certain cases where intervention is needed, i.e. a parent is mentally disabled or has been brainwashed by a cult.

I have met many a douchebag that felt they were entitled to whatever they wanted in life because of their family money. They felt they could say or do anything they wanted. These people are usually the first ones to get fired out of the cannon of karma. Buffet is not a stupid man and from what I do know of him he is a pretty good judge of character. In my opinion this decision did not come out of a vacuum. For all we know there were probably incidents that had occurred along the way that made the Oracle of Omaha pause regarding the role Nicole would play in his finances.

All of this could have been avoided if she had followed the Rock's advice which was to know her role and shut her mouth.