First Shares Purchased: 1964
Date Sold: Still Held
Amount Made: $3.7 Billion (Unrealized)
Percentage Gain: 290 percent (Unrealized)
In 1964, the “salad oil scandal,” where a vegetable oil company obtained massive loans through falsified collateral, rocked American Express, which had provided warehouses and vouched for the company’s inventory. This event ended up costing the company approximately $58 million and much of its reputation. In the period after the scandal broke, investors couldn’t sell AXP shares fast enough, and the stock lost 50 percent of its value in a short time, falling to $35 per share. Buffett, however, saw this moment of panic for just what it was – a drawback for an otherwise very stable company with long-term growth potential. Buffett observed people beginning to use credit cards in their daily transactions, and recognized AXP’s potential to become an American blue chip. The Berkshire Hathaway CEO purchased shares with a cost basis of $1.28 billion. As of December 31, 2009, the company’s 151.6 billion shares are worth more than $5 billion, an unrealized gain of $3.7 billion and an increase of 290 percent. Berkshire Hathaway currently owns 12.7 percent of American Express.
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)