The 1975 gathering that became known as Buffett’s ‘Hilton Head Group.’
“Mastermind Group” is the trending term used to describe a gathering of like-minded people who come together to learn, network, share ideas and solve problems. The original concept was coined in 1925 by author Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich), and over the years these groups have been called many things, like think tanks, peer advisory groups or networking forums. But did you know that Warren Buffett had such a group called “The Hilton Head Group?”
In 1968 Buffett hosted the first meeting of a group he coined the “Graham Group,” named for his one-time boss and investing mentor, Ben Graham. Biannually Buffett gathered dozens of his friends and business associates for a weekend of lectures, opinions and idea-sharing as well as some fun. Over the years locations varied from San Diego, to the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship, to Vancouver, Canada.
In late September 1975 Buffett hosted the Graham Group on Hilton Head, where a few notable events occurred. Hilton Head was the first of these gatherings that included Kay Graham, CEO of the Washington Post, and the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. It was also the first gathering that his wife, Suzie Buffett, sang to the group, after which she sang publicly, including annual Berkshire shareholder meetings. Perhaps, most notably, it was immediately following this Hilton Head meeting that the Washington Post press operators union held an infamous strike, lighting the presses on fire in the basement of The Post. Fortunately the strike happened after the Hilton Head meeting, as there were no direct flights to Washington from the island — much less an airport — for Ms. Graham to return.
It was after this “Graham Group” meeting that, for a few years, the group became known as “The Hilton Head Group,” to which Warren Buffett typed a letter the following year (shown at left).
Eventually the group has become known as “The Buffett Group,” but we want Hilton Head to bask in the glory of hosting such an elite group of thinkers and philanthropists.
The moral of the story
If the smartest, richest and busiest people in the world take time to gather to continuously learn, share ideas and knowledge, couldn’t other business leaders? There are a number of excellent groups to join locally, or you can start your own group. Just don’t call it “The Hilton Head Group,” or it could get confusing.