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Warren Buffett writes The Post to say Activision buy wasn’t based on insider info

Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett adamantly denied that he or any other investors at the firm had advance knowledge of Microsoft’s plan to buy Activision-Blizzard before the Omaha conglomerate took a $1 billion stake in the video game giant – telling The Post in an email that he wanted to clear up “misinformation” about the transaction. Berkshire Hathaway bought 14.66 million shares of Activision-Blizzard in the fourth quarter, weeks before Microsoft bought the company for $68.7 billion. The fortuitous timing raised some eyebrows given Buffett’s decades-long friendship with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who served on Berkshire’s board before stepping down in March 2020. But in an email to The Post, Buffett said the stock buys were made by “one of the two investment managers who operate independently of me at Berkshire” – a reference to Berkshire investors Ted Weschler and Todd Combs – and were completed long before the acquisition was announced. Buffett said that his email, which was addressed to a Post reporter and two other media outlets, was meant to “clear up any misinformation” regarding reports about the Berkshire stock purchase “and in order to have the record correct after I am not around.” “To sum up the facts, it was about three months after our manager’s first purchase that Microsoft announced its acquisition proposal of which Berkshire had no prior knowledge,” Buffett told The Post. “When Microsoft files its proxy material on its proposed purchase of Activision, I would be surprised if they had even discussed a proposal with Activision in early October, although I do not know.” Buffett said the Berkshire investor bought approximately 85% of the stake in October and made final purchases in November, with an average cost of about $77. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the timing of Berkshire Hathaway’s purchase of the shares, initially asserted they were bought at an average price of roughly $66.53 a share. The outlet later updated its story to note the $77 average price. Activision-Blizzard shares have surged more than 24% since the deal was announced and are currently trading above $81. Buffett noted that Berkshire could have bought shares at a similar price point even if it acquired a stake after the deal went public. “In any event, the investment manager’s $77 per share purchase could have been replicated after the Microsoft proposal was announced at a price of $78 or so. His purchase was no bonanza of any sort for him or Berkshire,” Buffett added. This isn’t the first time that Buffett has sought to dispel speculation that his close relationship with Gates could allow him access to advance knowledge of Microsoft’s plans. Aside from Gates’ former role on the Berkshire board, the pair are known to play the card game bridge together, and Buffett until recently served as a trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2018, Buffett noted that he has actively avoided buying Microsoft stock over the years due to concerns that such a deal “would be the target of suggestions, or accusations even, that [Gates] had told me something or vice versa.”

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