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Is The Warren Buffett-Bear Stearns Story Bullshit?

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Bear Stearns shares shot up over 8% yesterday after reports surfaced that the Wall Street bank in serious talks with Warren E. Buffett about selling the Oracle of Omaha as much as 20 percent of the firm. But is Warren really riding to the Bear’s rescue? We're skeptical.
It’s hardly news that Bear Stearns has been out shopping a 20% stake to potential investors. There’s been talk of several US bidders and, of course, a Chinese take-out bank making bids. But does Warren make sense? That old guy made out decently with Salomon Brothers but he still hates on them. Yesterday Bess quoted him as saying he how much he found the “brash Salomon culture of big egos, big risks and even bigger salaries to be out of step with his down-to-earth demeanor.” Do you want to be the person who sells him the story that Bear is totally different? We’d rather tell him why Bess Levin was called DQ in high school than try to explain Bear’s internal culture to him.
More importantly, there's little about Bear Stearns to suggest that Buffett would look to put in that kind of money. Trading below book value? You're going to tell us anyone knows what Bear Stearns book value is? Even Bear Stearns admits its guessing about the value of some of the assets it owns. Reliable revenue stream? This company makes much of its money trading securities.
It's also hard to see what Buffett brings to Bear Stearns apart from money and a reputational boost. Bear Stears needs a large cash infusion and a partner that can help it build global exposure. How does Buffett add value to the business? We don't see it.
Probably the strongest point in favor of the rumor is that Buffett is unpredictable. And so that wascaly wabbit might have something this wacky up his sleeve. Just when you thought he was buying trains, he turns around and buys traders.
Yesterday, CNBC’s “simple country reporter” Charlie Gasparino sounded a skeptical note. Nothing we heard would cause us to think that the Old Man of Omaha is anywhere close to buying a huge chunk of Bear Stearns. We do a lot of rumor sorting here at DealBreaker, and we call bullshit on this rumor.