The Oracle of Omaha doesn’t sit around dispensing wisdom — he works at it, says Kathy Ireland, a former supermodel and the multi-millionaire CEO of Kathy Ireland Worldwide.
“His work ethic is extraordinary,” Ireland told Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer. “And the integrity.”
Ireland, who in two decades built a startup fashion brand into a global company with billions in revenue, credits Buffett as a key mentor who convinced her to expand her business beyond fashion.
A staple in the audience at the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting, in Omaha, Ireland praised Buffett’s willingness to address the thousands in attendance about a bond trading scandal that plagued Salomon Brothers in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Berkshire Hathaway owned a stake in the investment bank.
In 1991, after the scandal had broken open, Buffett famously traveled to Washington D.C. and testified before a U.S. House subcommittee, apologizing for any misconduct and vowing to address it.
“He always shows the Salomon Brothers incident and talks about that, you know, if you lose the company money, basically, we'll forgive you. I'll earn it back,” Ireland says of Buffett, paraphrasing his remarks before Congress. “But if you mess with one shred of our reputation, I will be ruthless.”
“That is such strong leadership and it's so protective,” Ireland adds. “It's understandable why he's so successful.”
Since 1965, Buffett has run Berkshire Hathaway, which owns over 60 companies, like Geico and Dairy Queen, plus minority stakes in Apple, Coca-Cola, among others. He holds a net worth of $82.5 billion, making him the third-richest person alive.
Ireland made the comments during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
A supermodel in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Ireland came to prominence when she first appeared on the cover of the Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit edition in 1989. More than two decades later, on February 27, 2012, she made the cover of Forbes as the chief executive of Kathy Ireland Worldwide, a brand empire founded in 1993 that sells fashion and nutrition products, among many others. She has a net worth of nearly half a billion dollars, according to Forbes.
‘He makes me recognize that I audition for my job every single day’
As a regular at the Berkshire Hathaway meeting, Ireland participates in the event’s signature newspaper toss, often competing against Buffett.
“He works so hard, even at that paper-tossing competition,” she told the Wall Street Journal last year. “He makes me recognize that I audition for my job every single day.”
Speaking to Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous, in 2016, Ireland called Buffett’s shareholder meeting “an education for all.”
“One of my favorite Warren Buffett quotes is, ‘You find out who’s swimming naked when the tide goes out,’” she told Christoforous.
“He’s genuine,” she added. “Life is too short to work with people who you don’t really respect, and for me, I want to work with people I also enjoy.”
Max Zahn is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Find him on twitter @MaxZahn_.