Warren Buffett’s protégé, who wrote a letter at his company after graduating from college, has started her own private equity firm.
Tracy Britt Cool, 37, founded Kanbrick — a combination of Kansas and Brick — with Brian Humphrey in 2020 after working for Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway for 11 years.
The co-founders named the company after their home state and their idea that good companies are built brick by brick.
Cool got her start at Buffett’s conglomerate in 2009, when she was only 24 and a recent college grad. Her first position at the company, “financial assistant to the CEO,” was filled by Buffett herself.
She got the job after writing him a letter asking for a job, and she unexpectedly received a callback telling her to stop by his office if she was in Omaha, Nebraska, where Buffett is known to reside.
“What do you take with you to a meeting with a billionaire?” Cool recalled the thinking in an interview with Back then The New York Times. She would opt for a gift of candy corn and tomatoes, a nod to their farm upbringing and shared Midwestern roots.
Cool and Buffett weren’t total strangers when she walked into his office in 2009, having met him three times as a student, including at Smart Woman Securities — a women’s investment group she founded at Harvard.
Cool later became a prominent figure at the company and one of the few female executives at Berkshire Hathaway.
Tracy Britt Cool, 37, joined Berkshire Hathaway straight out of college in 2009 after writing a letter to owner Warren Buffett. He called her and told her to stop by the office if she was ever in Omaha. Then he got her a job: financial assistant to the chairman
Buffett (pictured at Sun Valley Billionaires Summer Camp) has since given his blessings to their new advancement, Kanbrick, which shares values similar to his own company
Tracy Britt Cool, 37, founded Kanbrick — a combination of Kansas and Brick — with Brian Humphrey (pictured) in 2020 after working for Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway for 11 years.
A blonde, blue-eyed young woman who started her career in a “very difficult” corporate culture, Cool said she put her head down and got the job done.
“It’s not culture to coddle you or train you,” Robert Miles, who has written several books about Berkshire, told the NYT. “But she’s seen firsthand what Berkshire is doing.”
Cool’s business acumen developed as a result of Berkshire’s growing portfolio. The company that began by acquiring companies like Dairy Queen and Benjamin Moore eventually grew into the $600 billion conglomerate it is today, leaving Buffett little time to focus on smaller acquisitions.
Buffett hired Cool to travel and meet with his CEOs. That’s how she began to make other connections — which led to her becoming CEO of Pampered Chef in 2014 while pregnant with her first child.
Cool spent 11 years in the Berkshire before starting her own business in 2020
Berkshire bought the company in 2002, but profit margins declined as customers switched to digital distribution. Within five years of taking on the role of chief executive and placing her would-be co-founder in the position of CFO, the company would shift more than 50 percent of its revenue from parties to the internet.
The company’s founder, Doris Christopher, told the NYT that Cool is a “thoughtful and determined leader.”
She would later help other companies like NetJets, which would lead Buffett to refer to her as a “firefighter” in a Wall Street Journal Interview 2020.
“Anything I asked her to do, she did it brilliantly,” he said at the time.
Buffett and Cool were close and ate weekly at Piccolo Pete, one of the Omaha restaurants he frequented.
He even walked her down the aisle in 2013 when she married her lawyer husband, Scott Cool, after her father passed away.
Now, with Buffett’s blessing — who said her new venture reminded him of himself starting his own company — she’s using all the knowledge she picked up in Berkshire to pave her own path.
The front of the house where Buffett started his Berkshire Hathaway business
The door to the conservatory bears Buffett’s signature and the words, “The Birthplace of Buffett Associates, May 1956.”
Though she insisted to the NYT that her and Humphrey’s business isn’t a copycat of Buffett’s, it has similar values of sticking with companies for the long term, unlike other private equity firms, which they typically walk away after a few years to let .
However, unlike Buffett, she plans to take a much larger stake in the companies she acquires.
Kanbrick will also host programs to help CEOs learn how to grow their businesses.
Her family has since moved to Tennessee and her husband – whom she met in an elevator – is doing most of the childrearing to give her the “flexibility” to work, she told the Times.
“He spends a lot of time with our kids,” she told the outlet.
Now ready to continue growing her business, she told the Times: “I’m trying to stay humble, learn and grow. If I do these things, there will be no failure.’
Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, drives to Sun Valley’s Camp for Billionaires conference on July 6, 2022 in a red jacket and light khakis.
Buffett, the fifth richest man in the world, berated Wall Street at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting in April, telling investors that the market encourages risky behavior in the stock market that turns it into a “gambling house.”
Buffett slammed investment banks and brokerage houses in front of tens of thousands of investors at his annual shareholder meeting at the Omaha Arena, saying that Wall Street “makes a lot more money when people gamble than when they invest.”
“One way or another, Wall Street makes money by catching the crumbs that fall off the table of capitalism,” he said. “They don’t make money unless people do things and they get a share of it.”
Big American companies have become “poker chips” for market speculation, he said, citing an increase in call options and saying brokers make more money betting than simple investing.
But in this environment, he said, his company, Berkshire Hathaway, took an opportunity and spent more than $50 billion on stocks in the first quarter of 2022.
Who is Warren Buffett?
Warren Buffett is worth an estimated $88 billion
Born in Nebraska in August 1930, the American corporate investor is CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, which owns 100% of companies such as Geico and Dairy Queen, as well as portions of Cocoa Cola, Kraft Heinz and Apple.
Buffett began buying up stock in Berkshire Hathaway, which began as a textile manufacturing company, in the 1960s.
He took control of the company in 1965 and grew his manufacturing interests before buying interests in the Washington Post, insurance company Geico, and oil company Exxon.
The company has grown into one of the largest investment companies in the world with assets in excess of $700 billion.
Buffett bought his first shares in an Oklahoma oil company at age 11.
In 1952 he married his first wife Susan Thompson and by 1960 the couple had three children – Susan, Howard and Peter.
Susan Buffett died of a brain hemorrhage in 2004 after suffering from cancer, and Mr. Buffett married his second wife Astrid in 2006.
In 2006, Mr. Buffett announced plans to donate more than 80 percent of his wealth to charity.
Buffett’s key moments
- August 30, 1930 – Buffett was born in Omaha, Nebraska to Leila and Howard Buffett
- 1942 – Buffett bought his first stock at age 11
- 1952 – Marries Susan Thompson
- 1957 – Bought a house in Omaha for just over $30,000 and still lives there
- 1965 – Takes control of Berkshire Hathaway, which at this point is a troubled textile company
- 1991 – Becomes chairman of the investment bank Solomon Brothers to try to save the ailing company from the crisis.
- 1996 – Buys the insurance company Geico
- 2004 – his first wife Susan dies
- 2006 – Promising to give away 85 percent of his wealth