It's sad to say, but true: Even Warren Buffett fires people.
After Denis Abrams, CEO of Benjamin Moore -- a company owned by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway -- used company money to take his corporate staff on a getaway to Bermuda to celebrate the company’s first quarterly sales increase in years, Buffett fired Abrams, the New York Post reports. The island getaway allegedly included a dinner cruise aboard a yacht that some vacation attendees believed was owned by singer Jimmy Buffett.
If the party had been the reason for Abrams' ouster, he wouldn't have been the first CEO to be fired for an outlandish use of company money. Former Kmart CEO Charles Conway was fired from the retailer after he renegotiated his salary several times, at one point scoring a $5 million "retention loan," as the company was headed towards bankruptcy, ABC News reports. Then there's ex-Lotus CEO Dany Bahar. After he allegedly used company money to refurbish his homes, Bahar was told to take a hike, according to the Washington Post.
For some of Benjamin Moore's lower-level employees, the level of top-tier extravagance likely annoyed. That's because some in the company reportedly contended with layoffs and pay freezes as the company faced slow sales in recent years, according to the NYP.
Buffett himself is known both for living a hokey lifestyle well below his means, striking a notable contrast with Abrams' conspicuous behavior. Buffett has also come to champion causes like raising taxes on the rich. In August of last year, the Berkshire Hathaway CEO penned an op-ed in The New York Times arguing that the super-rich should pay taxes at a rate that’s the same or higher than that of middle class Americans.
Still, that doesn’t mean Buffett’s ordinary employees are immune from layoffs. Buffett fired 21,000 employees over the course of 2009, many of them his poorest workers in places like El Salvador, Felix Salmon notes. The Oracle of Omaha reportedly often hires “bad cops” to fire his workers, protecting him from any blowback.
UPDATE: Buffett refuted reports that he fired Abrams because of the party, instead saying the decision was "based on a differing view about distribution channels and brand strategy," according to CNBC. Buffett wrote in a letter he sent to Abrams:
The recent story coupling a top management convocation on a boat with the decision to make a management change at Benjamin Moore is completely false.
Here are some of Buffett's biggest moments in the spotlight:
In 1964, Warren Buffett purchased shares of an American Express wracked by the "salad oil scandal." The purchases would go on to net him $3.7 Billion, according to 24/7 Wall St. The move would later be compared to his more recent investments in Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.
In 2008, Buffett flew in the face of a full-blown financial crisis and bought $5 billion worth of Goldman Sachs shares, netting an eventual $1.6 billion in dividends, according to CNBC.
Despite the recession officially declared over, Buffett told CNBC in September 2010 that the economy was "still in a recession. And -- and we're not gonna be out of it for awhile, but we will get out of it."
During the U.S. debt ceiling debate over the summer, Buffett told CNBC that the the Republican-controlled Congress was "trying to use the incentive now that we're going to blow your brains out, America, in terms of your debt worthiness over time."
After Standard & Poor's downgraded U.S. credit, Buffett told Bloomberg TV that the country deserved a "quadruple A" rating, not a downgrade -- a remark later referenced by President Obama.
In a New York Times op-ed Buffett criticized the low tax rates of U.S. billionaires. "[W]hile the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks," Buffett wrote.
On August 25th 2011, Buffett announced that he would purchase $5 billion worth of shares in beleaguered Bank of America. According to CNBC, he reportedly "dreamt this idea up...while he was in the bathtub."