The Oracle of Omaha. He’s not just good for marrying folksy business wisdom with aberrant sex fetish. He can also be counted on to bring up the pink elephant in the room (it helps if said elephant has huge cans) when no one else will. According to Andrew Ross Sorkin’s new book on the weeks following Lehman biting the big one, everybody was ready to sign off on a merger between Goldman and Wachovia until Buffett knocked his cane against some foreheads while asking, “Who does Hank Paulson work for? Think, McFly, think!”Sorkin reports that the deal, which was nearly consummated, would have merged Goldman Sachs and Wachovia. Henry M. Paulson, the Treasury secretary and former C.E.O. of Goldman, was deeply involved in the process, contacting both Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s current C.E.O., and a Wachovia board member, and strongly urged both to consider it. Wachovia’s C.E.O., Robert Steel, was a former vice-chairman at Goldman Sachs and Paulson’s former number two at the Treasury Department.
Sorkin reports that Warren Buffett was also contacted about investing in the merged company, but told a banker at Goldman that it would never happen. “By tonight the government will realize they can’t provide capital to a deal that’s being done by the former firm of the Treasury secretary with the company of a former vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs and former deputy Treasury secretary,” Buffett said.“There is no way. They’ll all wake up and realize, even if it was the best deal in the world, they can’t do it.”