Gustavo Ballvé on January 6th, 2011
Food for thought, Home, Mental models, Portfolio Management, Risk management

It’s reader-suggested week at! Ever since the 2001 letter to shareholders (which discussed the 9/11 attacks), Warren Buffett has said that his biggest fear is a nuclear strike in American soil. In 2006, despite the frenzy surrounding Buffett’s announcement of the biggest-ever charity pledge (of his wealth to 5 foundations, most of the money going to Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), there were still plenty of headlines regarding his $50 million pledge to the Nuclear Threat Initiative (created by Ted Turner and former US senator Sam Nunn in 2001). In typical Buffett fashion, his money was tied to results and to the raising of further US$ 100mm to match his donation. Also in typical Buffett fashion, the odds of success seem good.

In the final moments of 2010, the idea his gift supported has almost come true: the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “unanimously approved the creation of a nuclear fuel bank overseen by the U.N. that would offer countries that agree to pursue nonmilitary nuclear programs a guaranteed source of fuel for their atomic reactors.”

From the Time story: “(…) Buffett believes the return on his modest investment could be vastly more valuable than any of the lucrative stakes he holds in corporate America.”

We’ve written before about Buffett’s approach to charity, and how rational it is (he know what he’d like to change but doesn’t know how to do it, so he’s “hiring” the right people for the job after years of thinking about it – and he’d like to see the money work and fast). We really liked how Mr. Buffett tied this particular gift down, and here’s a bit from a 2006 NYT piece to explain it: “Mr. Buffett (…) is a man who understands leverage. He won’t kick in his $50 million unless some government or governments ante up $100 million in cash or fuel. And the project has to come together within two years or he will take his money off the table.”

And if you enjoy the topic of Charity, here’s another post we did on the subject.


Nuclear Threat Initiative’s website and Wikipedia page

Comprehensive 2008 interview with Sam Nunn, NTI’s co-founder and co-chairman

Nuclear Tipping Point (2010 documentary film)’s website – you can watch the entire movie for free here (in HD).

2:28 Trailer to The Nuclear Tipping Point film:

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