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Buying a piece of Buffett

Today, regular Americans get a chance to buy a piece of billionaire super-investor Warren Buffett for the first time.

Buffett, chief executive of Berkshire-Hathaway investment fund/holding company, has been priced out of the reach of most American investors, thanks to the high cost of his stock.

Shares of Berkshire Hathaway are trading today at about $111,400 each. Yes, you read that right. Berkshire is among the world's highest-priced stocks and that's just the way Buffett has wanted it. Though he styles himself as an ordinary fellow -- penurious enough to drive his own car, continue to live in Omaha and subsist on cheeseburgers and Coke (of which he owns 8.6 percent) -- his shares have been priced so high, they could be purchased only by institutions and his fellow billionaires. At best, employees of some firms could get into the action, a little bit, by loading some Berkshire into their retirement accounts, as we can here at The Washington Post Co., where Buffett is the company's lead director. (Disclosure: I have some Berkshire in my Post retirement account.)

Today, however, thanks to a big Berkshire stock split following his purchase last year of the remainder of Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad that he didn't already own, investors can own what are being called "baby B" Berkshire shares for about $75 apiece.

Berkshire has long been a dual-class stock-ownership company, like The Post Co., the New York Times Co. and others. Now, it has split is B-shares 50 to 1 to make them affordable and raise more capital for Berkshire. It is trading on the S&P 500.

Shares of both classes of Berkshire are up about 10 percent since the split was announced in November, following the railroad deal. Big holders of the baby-B shares include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Buffett pledged in 2006 to begin giving billions to the foundation) and Buffett himself.

Here's a CNNMoney analysis of the baby-B shares.

Berkshire also owns or owns pieces of Geico, Dairy Queen, Fruit of the Loom, the Buffalo News and several other companies.

Follow me on Twitter at @theticker

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 12, 2010; 3:19 PM ET
Categories:  Corporations , Personalities , The Ticker , Wall Street  | Tags: Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett, Washington Post, baby-B Berkshire shares  
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