Exclusive: Buffett Kids React to Dad's Donation

ByABC News via via logo

June 29, 2006 — -- Warren Buffett's decision to donate roughly $37 billion to the Gates Foundation may have shocked the world, but it came as no surprise to his three children, whom he'd consulted first. In an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America," Susan, Howard and Peter Buffett said they supported their father's decision not to leave all his money to them.

"The truth is it would be insane to leave us that much money," said Susan Buffett. "It just would be."

Warren Buffett plans to give about $1 billion total to his children's three charitable foundations: the Susan A. Buffett Foundation, which focuses on early education for children of low-income families; the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which has helped 42 countries; and the Novo Foundation, Peter Buffett's organization for democracy.

Each Buffett sibling also recently received a letter from their father that said: "I consider myself lucky to have three children who want to spend much of their time and energy working on projects that will benefit others. I am proud of what you are doing and your mother would be proud as well. Love, Dad."

Howard Buffett, who is in line to become the next chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, the investment company headed by Warren Buffett, said he is happy with the amount of money his father will leave his children.

"I think we're about as fortunate as anybody ever could be," said Howard Buffett. "I think that what he's done is that he's given us the kind of money that we can do a lot [with] to help a lot of people in the world, and we can stay involved without having to manage a lot of other people. It's a great amount of money."

The Buffett kids also told "GMA" what it was like growing up with the famously frugal billionaire who didn't mind taking back their allowance money, which was all of 75 cents!

"Listen, anybody who doesn't think my dad is smart -- as soon as he started giving us the allowance, he put a slot machine up in the attic, and we'd go up there and he'd win every penny back of the allowance," Howard Buffett said. "In 10 years, I couldn't get three of those melons to line up."

Warren Buffett also turned down his daughter's request for a $41,000 loan to improve her kitchen.

"I asked for a loan just to expand the kitchen so I could fit the highchair in when my daughter was born, and he said 'Go to the bank and do it like everyone else,'" Susan Buffett said.

But stories like that paint the wrong picture of her father, she added.

"That has only just carried the perception further along that the generosity wasn't there, and the generosity was enormous," Susan said. "It's a little unfair to him."

Peter Buffett, the youngest sibling, said his father had taught them all important lessons about money.

"That it doesn't make the man, that's for sure, or buy happiness," he said. "I mean, he's the happiest guy in the world but not because he has a lot of money but because he does what he loves to do. That's what he told us to find in the world, something we love, and we're all lucky enough to have found that."

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