Hilton’s CEO had to give a speech after Warren Buffett. He joked that he juggled and rode a unicycle to avoid losing the crowd.

Warren buffett
Warren Buffett. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
  • Few people would volunteer to give a speech after Warren Buffett.
  • Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta had to follow the famed investor at an event last year.
  • He joked that he juggled and rode a unicycle to avoid losing the crowd.
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Warren Buffett is a legendary investor, the boss of one of the world’s biggest companies, and an American business icon with enormous influence and a global following. That made him a tough act to follow for Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta at an event last year.

“I do have a bone to pick,” Nassetta said in a virtual conversation with American Express CEO Stephen Squeri at the Citi Global Property Conference on Tuesday.

“Steve mentioned that he had me speak to his leaders’ meeting in Miami,” Nassetta continued. “He gave me the wonderful slot of being right after Warren Buffett, as I remember. I thought the whole room was going to clear out and go to the men’s and ladies’ room.”

“You were funnier,” Squeri chimed in, according to a transcript on Sentieo, a financial-research site. “You were much funnier than he was.”

“Yes, I had to do something,” Nassetta replied. “I was juggling. I rode my unicycle, just to entertain them after Warren,” he joked.

“And the magic show you put on was great too,” Squeri quipped.

Nassetta’s fears of audience members streaming out before his speech weren’t unfounded. Tens of thousands of people descend on Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholder meeting each year to listen to Buffett and his right-hand man, Charlie Munger, hold forth on a wide range of topics.

In contrast, the boss of a hotel chain doesn’t have quite the same appeal.

As for why Buffett made an appearance at Squeri’s meeting, Berkshire’s almost 19% stake in American Express was probably a factor. The position was worth $US18.3 ($24) billion at the end of December, making American Express the fourth-most valuable holding in Berkshire’s stock portfolio after Apple, Bank of America, and Coca-Cola.