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Buffett Missed Out on Crisis, Revealing Berkshire’s Big Weakness

Berkshire Hathaway holds a bunch of solid investments, but it’s getting harder to put all that cash to work on favorable terms.

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Warren Buffett has likened it to a forest, laid out its building blocks, and even tried to break it down into different groups to explain the setup. But his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has always defied neat categorization.

Constructed from the remains of a New England textile company, Berkshire is a mashup of businesses from the railroad BNSF to auto insurer Geico to Dairy Queen to party goods supplier Oriental Trading. It also holds a portfolio of substantial investments in public companies such as Apple Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. The sheer diversity of the businesses has caused investors to consider the company similar to a mutual fund. Individual investors who might not otherwise consider themselves stockpickers sometimes plunge a significant chunk of their net worth into this one company. Hordes of them show up to Berkshire’s celebrated annual meeting in Omaha each year to find out what the greatest investor of his generation is planning to do with their money.