Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

That’s the Spirit! Milwaukeean Buffett Donates $11 Million in 2004

By - Nov 17th, 2005 12:00 pm

The Spirit Foundation, a charitable organization controlled by Milwaukeeans Peter Buffett and his wife Jennifer Heil Buffet quietly donated $10,780,254 in 2004 to various charities. Among the recipients was the Gynuity Health Project which received a $750,000 grant from the foundation for “Expanding Access to Medical Abortion in the Developing World.”

The foundation’s principal assets comprise of shares of Berkshire Hathaway Common Stock – Class A, valued at $125,755,720 according to an IRS 990PF document signed May 16, 2005 by Jennifer Buffett, the Vice President of the foundation. The cost basis of the stock was only $23,890, which gives you an idea of the incredible investment acumen of Warren Buffett, Peter’s father, the founder and principal shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett senior is listed by Forbes Magazine as America’s second-wealthiest individual, with a net worth of $45 billion.

The foundation received over $104,000,000 in Berkshire stock, including $51,210,000 on January 6, 2004.

Berkshire Hathaway does not pay a dividend, so the Buffetts financed their charities by selling 129 shares of Berkshire Hathaway Class A and 68 shares of Berkshire Hathaway Class B stock over the course of the year for $11,353,806.

That stock originally cost them $2,192, so the sale netted a staggering profit of $11,351,614, which the Buffetts quietly put to use in many ways.

Among local beneficiaries of Spirit Foundation grants were such entities as Growing Power ($15,000); Next Door Foundation ($1,010,000); Radio for Milwaukee ($200,000); Turner Ballroom Preservation Trust ($50,000); Wisconsin Citizen Action ($15,000); Urban Underground ($10,000); and the Milwaukee Public Market ($50,000).

A sign at the public market mentions the Spirit Foundation as a contributor; it is one of the few places the organization’s name appears anywhere.

The largest donation, of over $3,000,000 was made in November 2004 to the Tides Center in San Francisco. The Tides Center operates as a donor-advised fund, much like the Greater Milwaukee Foundation to which Spirit gave $500,000 last year to set up a fund. Unlike the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the Tides Center is much vilified by the right wing. The Rainforest Action Network, also of San Francisco, received $350,000 for general support.

Peter Buffett lived in San Francisco before moving to Milwaukee in the late 1980’s; his mother, Susan Thompson Buffett, also lived in San Francisco. She died last year.

In all the Buffetts donated to some 88 charities, many local mostly involving the environment, the underprivileged, and to causes favoring abortion rights (NARAL) and family planning (Planned Parenthood), not to mention Gynuity. Warren Buffett for many years has been a force behind the financing of the “abortion pill.”

Expenses were relatively small for a foundation of its size, totaling $308,498.

Peter and Jennifer Buffett each drew an annual salary of $40,000 for 30 hours of work apiece each week.

Legal fees were only $11,716, and the accountant only cost the foundation $3,415.

The Buffetts did not respond to calls and messages for comment.

Voss Books to Close

Voss Books, 229 N. Water Street. will be open through the holiday season, and then will shut down at that location.

“We are closing here at 229,” said Kelly Voss, owner of the used and antiquarian book store she opened here two years ago. She will pack up her books – and her two cats, and is looking for a new location, or some means to remain active in book selling in some capacity here, she said.

Win Brewers Opening Day Tix

This Sunday, November 20th, will be a great time to visit Steny’s Tavern, 800 South Second Street where a fundraiser will be held for the benefit of JoEllen Bullock, a Milwaukee woman who has been diagnosed with cancer and has mega-bills to pay.

Her friends, led by Lisa Giallanza (“The Queen of Halloween”–Journal Sentinel) have gathered an incredible array of donated goods and services to raffle at the event which will run from 2 p.m. until who knows when?

There will be free beer and food and chances to win all sorts of goodies like a stay in the Sybaris Pool Suites, a night at the Country Inn, tickets to the Pabst Theatre and the Rep and many, many other items.

At 3:15 two bucks tickets will be raffled off; at 3:45 the raffle will be for two tickets to see Kenny Rogers on December 15th.

Other prizes include 10 tickets to Brewers Opening Day 2006 along with a Greek food tailgate, donated by Dale Mustas and 4 tickets to the Milwaukee Bucks (valued at $440) donated by the MMAC.

I hope you will be able to attend this event, and good luck to Jo Ellen who walked into the doctor’s with a suspected case of food poisoning and walked out with a nightmare diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

Hyslop to Retire

John Hyslop, the City of Milwaukee’s Assistant Planning Director is set to retire after 27.5 years with the city. He has been involved in virtually every project that the Department of City Development has undertaken for decades and would sit patiently through endless committee meetings. But when he spoke, aldermen and commissioners would listen. The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee will honor Hyslop at its November 28th meeting. Hyslop’s final salary with the city was $94,105.44.

This article was originally published by Milwaukee World.

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