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What tells Warren Buffett when an investment has reached its full potential?

I don’t buy Coke with the idea it will be out of gas in 10 years or 50 years. There could be something that happens by I think the chances are almost nil. So what we really want to do is buy businesses that we would be happy to own forever. It is the same way I fell about people who buy Berkshire. I want people who buy Berkshire to plan to hold it forever. They may not for one reason or the other but I want them at the time they buy it to think they are buying a business they are going to want to own forever.

And I don’t say that is the only way to buy things. It is just the group to join me because I don’t want to have a changing group all the time. I measure Berkshire by how little activity there is in it. If I had a church and I was the preacher and half the congregation left every Sunday. I wouldn’t say, “It is marvelous to have all this liquidity among my members.”

Terrific turnover… I would rather go to church where all the seats are filled every Sunday by the same people. Well that is the way we look at the businesses we buy. We want to buy something virtually forever. And we can’t find a lot of those. And back when I started, I had way more ideas than money so I was just constantly having to sell what was the least attractive stock in order to buy something I just discovered that looked even cheaper. But that is not our problem really now. So we hope we are buying businesses that we are just as happy holding five years from now as now. And if we ever found a huge acquisition, then maybe we would have to sell something. Maybe to make that acquisition but that would be a very pleasant problem to have.

We never buy something with a price target in mind. We never buy something at 30 saying if it goes to 40 we’ll sell it or 50 or 60 or 100. We just don’t do it that way. Anymore than when we buy a private business like See’s Candy for $25 million. We don’t ever say if we ever get an offer of $50 million for this business we will sell it. That is not the way to look at a business.

The way to look at a business is this going to keep producing more and more money over time? And if the answer to that is yes, you don’t need to ask any more questions.

Source: Lecture at the University of Florida Business School
Time: October 15th 1998

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