Winners & Losers: Why Warren Buffett is this month’s big loser—sort of

He is the richest loser we know

Conan Tobias 0 Premium content image
(Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)

(Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)

BIG LOSER

BIG LOSER*

Warren Buffett

*BUT, YES, THE RICHEST LOSER WE KNOW

The Oracle of Omaha’s impressive track record seems to have hit a snag. For nearly 49 years, Buffett has used the performance of Standard & Poor’s 500 index to gauge his own performance in running Berkshire Hathaway, the multinational conglomerate with its fingers in pretty much everything. Since taking over the company in 1965, Buffett has quaintly made it a personal project to compare the index against Berkshire’s rise in value at five-year intervals. Buffett felt that if Berkshire could increase its book value faster than the S&P rises, it will outperform the benchmark index in the long run. And for 44 years, it did. But recent numbers show the S&P 500 returning 128%, including dividends, since the end of 2008. By comparison, Berkshire’s book value rose only 80%, ending the streak. While this places Buffett in the Loser camp in the short term, it’s worth noting that his track record over the past half century is quite spectacular—Berkshire’s book value has compounded at about 20% annually under Buffett’s watch, compared to a 9.4% average annual rise for the S&P. Even shareholders are willing to cut him some slack, admitting that times are tough, and Buffett isn’t solely to blame. “He didn’t pick it because it was an easy benchmark,” one investor told Bloomberg News. He’s also still one of the world’s richest people. So call this one Loser with an asterisk.

BIG LOSER

LOSER

Walmart China

FOX IS THE NEW HORSE

The year is still a bit young to call it the meat scandal of 2014, but Walmart is definitely making a strong attempt to steal Ikea’s horse-meat stained crown. The Chinese arm of the low-cost retailer was forced to recall “five-spice” donkey meat from its shelves after it was found to contain traces of a sixth spice: fox. As a result, Walmart is performing DNA tests on all its meat product in China—because, worst case scenario, Walmart and Ikea’s meats get mixed up and someone ends up unknowingly eating donkey.

WINNER

WINNER

Ryan Seacrest

UP NEXT: COPYRIGHT-INFRINGEMENT IDOL

John Chen is taking no prisoners in 2014. Having already quickly dismissed Alicia Keys, the new BlackBerry CEO rocked Seacrest’s New Year by dropping a lawsuit on him. The TV and radio personality recently invested $1 million in Typo, a company that makes snap-on keyboards for the iPhone, even though not having a keyboard is one of the iPhone’s main selling features. The company was to launch its product in January, but BlackBerry is attempting to block the release, claiming Typo’s keyboard is a bit too close to its own trademarked keyboard. Typo’s attachment does somewhat mimic BlackBerry’s keypad, so Chen might have a case—until Seacrest plays the who-the-hell-would-try-to-steal-BlackBerry’s-business-model defense, and walks away with more press than his somewhat useless invention would have otherwise received.

BIG LOSER

LOSER

Snapchat

THEY DIDN’T GET THE SHOTS OF YOUR “LUNCH”

The revenue-shy photo-sharing application that has refused to sell out to Facebook and Google for $3 billion and $4 billion, respectively, finally got hacked in January. While users’ photos—which are not sexually explicit in any way—weren’t stolen, hackers did manage to retrieve and post online 4.6 million user names and passwords. Snapchat took its usual defensive, non-apologetic stance, said it wouldn’t happen again, and that everyone’s photos are perfectly safe—not that it’s that big a deal, because no one at all uses Snapchat for sexting.

BIG LOSER

LOSER

Red Lobster

LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER

Darden Restaurants says it plans to sell off the underperforming seafood chain. Though the conglomerate began with the restaurant known for its moist corn bread and dry fish, it says Red Lobster is dragging down its bottom line and plans to focus on its fine dining establishments, like Olive Garden. Shareholders have expressed displeasure with the sale, possibly for financial reasons, or possibly because as bad as Red Lobster’s food is, that corn bread’s really not too bad.

BIG LOSER

LOSER

Bank Robbers

ARE TRAINS STILL A THING?

It changed the face of the retail industry, the music industry and (gulp!) the publishing industry. Now the Internet is affecting the livelihoods of a time-honoured group of career criminals: bank robbers. The British Bankers Association reports a mere 66 robberies took place in 2011, down from 847 in 1992. In the U.S., bank jobs numbered 3,870 in 2012, the lowest number seen in decades. The proliferation of online banking, the practice of keeping less cash on-site and new electronic deterrent technologies have made the phrase “stick ’em up” sound as antiquated as giving away a free toaster for opening a savings account. Chalk up one more segment of the working class sent to the unemployment line thanks to modern technology. Thanks, banks.

WINNER

WINNER

Alica Keys

UNPLUGGED

The R&B singer is parting ways with BlackBerry after a mere 12 months as the troubled tech company’s fake creative director. Keys never did seem very into the job, what with her being caught tweeting from an iPhone just days into the gig (a hack job, surely), and BlackBerry, in return, never seemed to know quite what to do with her. Now that every exec responsible for hiring Keys has left the building, severing this relationship is a blessing for both sides. The last thing BlackBerry needs to be spending money on is a celebrity spokesthingy, and the last thing a successful artist like Keys needs is to be held publicly responsible for BlackBerry’s “creativity.”

BIG LOSER

LOSER

Beyoncé

BEYONCÉ, WE HAVE A PROBLEM

NASA officials counting down to the release of Beyoncé’s new album in December were shocked to discover the track “XO” contained a sample of former NASA public affairs officer Steve Nesbitt speaking to the press in 1986 following the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. The singer said by including phrases such as “major malfunction” in her pop song, she was offering tribute to the Challenger’s crew and their families by showing that, sometimes, unexpected things happen, so it’s important to cherish every moment. Beyoncé paid further tribute to the Challenger crew, all of whom perished in the disaster, by riding the Coney Island Cyclone in the song’s video.

WINNER

WINNER

Beyoncé

THE CARS DID IT FIRST

Apparently bad taste does not a failure make. The singer’s aforementioned new album was released exclusively to iTunes in December, with no fanfare, marketing or advance notice of any kind. Though a physical version of the album arrived in stories in time for Christmas, both Amazon and Target, incensed at missing out on early sales, refused to carry it. Beyoncé responded by doing an appearance at Walmart—and selling one million units, enough for the self-titled release to achieve Platinum status, something that doesn’t happen too often these days. The album contains 14 new songs, featuring guest turns by the likes of Jay Z and Frank Ocean, and 17 videos as part of what Beyoncé calls a “visual album.” “I see music,” said the artist who seems to suffer from some kind of special synesthesia while also being oblivious to the previous existence of the music video.

BIG LOSER

LOSER

Michael Bay

PROMPTER WAS SOUNDWAVE IN DISGUISE

The director known for such explosion-laden films as Transformers 1, Transformers2 and the now-legendary Transformers 3, freaked out and ran offstage when his TelePrompTer broke down during a Consumer Electronics Show presentation. Bay, who was meant to promote Samsung’s new curved 4K TV, left Samsung executive VP Joe Stinziano alone on stage after realizing that his script would not reappear, proving once again that nothing is more important to Michael Bay than the written word.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *