Both of Warren Buffett's sons now make their homes in the country.
Howard, the elder, has owned and worked on a farm near Decatur, Ill., for nearly 20 years. Now younger son Peter and his family make their home in Ulster County, N.Y., near Kingston in the Hudson River Valley. Their condo at One Madison Park in Manhattan's financial district is up for sale, priced at $4.1 million.
"We love it, but it was a lot of money to tie up in something that, increasingly, we weren't using as a home base," Peter Buffett said. "Yes, even some Buffetts have mortgages."
He and wife Jennifer commute to the city weekly for their work with the Novo Foundation, funded with Berkshire Hathaway Inc. stock donated by his father and late mother, Susan Thompson Buffett. The foundation aims to bring women out of poverty, promote healthy child development and stop "gender-based violence" in the United States and abroad. Peter Buffett also is a working musician.
"We enjoy living in the country a lot more," he said. "Jennifer and I realized that we're both the Eddie Albert character in Green Acres," a 1965-71 TV show that featured a New York couple transplanted to a country farm.
In case you're interested, agent Douglas Elliman and Prudential real estate say the 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom condominium has floor-to-ceiling glass curtain walls and a living-dining room that faces Madison Square Park and the Empire State Building.
In a sign of tough times in the city's condo market, the 57-story building is "waiting for the reorganization plan" to finish its common space and amenity areas, the sales blurb says. But there's a concierge on duty.
Millions come and go
Wondering how stock market swings affect the average billionaire?
Now there's the daily Bloomberg Billionaires Index, which calculates the 20 largest personal fortunes by totaling up stock holdings and daily price fluctuations.
No. 1 Carlos Slim of Mexico lost $478.4 million one day recently, but still had $68.5 billlion left. Buffett's $43.8 billion is up 2.4 percent this year, by Bloomberg's calculations. Close behind Buffett is Ingvar Kamprad, owner of household goods retailer IKEA, with a 14.3 percent gain this year to $42.5 billion.
Now, are there futures options on billionaires we can trade?
Dispute over mold
Shayla Menville reported in the Olive Hill (Ky.) Times that local residents Ray and Mary Crank received an arbitration award of $52,343.66 in a dispute over a moldy mobile home they bought from Clayton Homes, a subsidiary of Berkshire.
In a state court complaint in 2005 against Clayton's LUV Homes dealership in Ashland, Ky., the Cranks alleged that Ray Crank had become ill from a toxic mold had been concealed by paint.
They moved out of the house, which has since been destroyed under court order, and lived in a pickup truck, in tents or with relatives, the Times said.
Arbitrator Lloyd Spear found recently that there was "clear and convincing evidence of fraud in that LUV Homes intentionally concealed the presence of mold, mold damage and water damage in the mobile home unit sold to the Cranks." He said the damage was painted over in order "to induce the Cranks to purchase the unit."
The award did not include compensation for medical treatments or the loss of personal items, which the Cranks had sought. "I just don't feel justice was served at all," Mary Crank told the Times. "This is very wrong."
Todd Fulks, associate general counsel at Clayton, told The World-Herald that Clayton "respectfully disagrees with the arbitrator's award in this case. They offered their version to the story, and we offered our version, and the arbitrator obviously disagreed with us in a lot of respects. They bought a home. They were unhappy. We're disappointed that they were unhappy."
Despite the arbitrator's viewpoint, he said, "There was never any intention in our view of the facts to defraud the homeowners in this case. ... The dealership sold this home as is, where is. There was not an intent to hide any problems with this house. We do respect the arbitrator's award and will abide by it unless there is some opportunity to appeal it."
Utility seeks rate hike
Berkshire subsidiary PacifiCorp of Portland, Ore., is asking state regulators for a 4.3 percent increase in electricity rates to pay for power costs, upgrading coal plants, a solar energy project and expansion of transmission lines, the Portland Oregonian said.
That's on top of a 4.4 percent increase in January and 15 percent during 2011. Rates are up about 50 percent since 2006, when PacifiCorp was acquired by Berkshire's MidAmerican Energy Holdings of Des Moines.
PacifiCorp defended the increases as necessary for pollution control and growth to meet demand.
Bob Jenks, executive director of the Citizens' Utility Board of Oregon, said he questions whether PacifiCorp "can defend pancaking all these things on top of each other as reasonable. They're not managing it well."
The Omaha World-Herald Co. is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
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