Dollars and Jens
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Lampert, Wetherell, Buffett
Since this K-Mart/Sears merger was announced last week, I've seen several allusions to Lampert, the father of the deal, being the next Warren Buffett. Five years ago, I heard CMGI's David Wetherell called the Warren Buffett of the Internet. Since I'm not sure quite what's meant by these analogies, I don't know whether they are meaningless or wrong.
If they are meaningless, and all they mean is "successful investor by acquisition", I have no particular desire to argue, though Wetherell's stock has certainly fallen in the last five years (in more ways than one). But Wetherell never had the temperament of Buffett. And Lampert is a turnaround artist. In some sense, it's unfair to Lampert to compare him to Buffett. Lampert buys companies that need retooling and does the hard work necessary; Buffett just buys great companies at good prices and watches them grow. In fact, he has specifically disclaimed interest in turnaround situations, and he won't buy a company for which he'd have to find new management.
Lampert appears — from what little I know of his track record — to be a great businessman, but comparisons to Warren Buffett aren't really useful.