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Opinion InMarket: Marvin Blum’s very good, maybe great week

InMarket: Marvin Blum’s very good, maybe great week

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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

The week of April 28-May 4 will probably remain in Marvin Blum’s memory for a long time. And well it should. After all, how often do you mix it up with a broadcasting legend and his family and a well-respected financial genius within days of each other? It’s not ego that saw Blum intersect with greatness, really it was more service and support for his family than anything. After all, his day job is as a tax attorney. A darn good one, as the Fort Worth Business Press named him a Power Attorney a few years back. On the night of April 30, Blum was the moderator at the Multicultural Alliance annual awards dinner at the Worthington Renaissance Hotel. The honorees were the Schieffer siblings – Bob Schieffer, famed CBS newsman and namesake of Texas Christian University’s journalism school; Tom Schieffer, former president of the Texas Rangers and former Ambassador to Australia; and their sister, Sharon Schieffer Mayes, an educator who was a principal at Dunbar High School during integration. Accomplished all, the night was also a tribute to their mother, Gladys Payne Schieffer. As Bob Schieffer said, their mother taught them that: “With a shine on your shoes and a smile on your face, you’ll have a little advantage over the other people going after a job.” That panel should be enough for a tax attorney from Fort Worth, but later in the week, Blum, for the third year in a row, headed to what is called the Financial Woodstock of the year, the annual Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in Omaha, Neb. “My son’s a big fan, so I go with him,” Blum says. Last year, Blum told his son, Adam Blum, an investment banker and private equity investor in Austin, that some of the questions Warren Buffett, Berkshire’s chairman, gets from the audience were “kind of repetitive.” So his son challenged Blum to come up with his own. As they prepared to leave this year, his son asked if he had the question ready. “He wasn’t going to let me off the hook,” Blum says. As a result, on May 4, toward the end of the day, Blum found himself in the spotlight – nervous – as a crowd of about 30,000 Buffett groupies waited for Blum’s question. “Your image shows up on this screen. At the same time you’re hearing yourself three words ago,” Blum said recalling the moment. “Don’t be confused, just keep going,” Blum said to himself. Keep going he did and he identified himself to Buffett and the crowd. “I am Marvin Blum from Fort Worth, Texas, home to four of your companies.” And then he was interrupted – by Buffett himself. “Oh, Fort Worth! We love Fort Worth.” Berkshire, of course, owns BNSF, Justin Boots, Acme Brick and TTI in Fort Worth, “That relaxed me,” Blum says. “We were on a new level now. I’m a boy from a town he’s really high on.” Blum continued: “Thank you. We love you too and your presence in our community. I’m an estate planning lawyer, and it’s interesting as we wrap up today to ponder that the baby boomer generation is about to pass along the greatest transfer of wealth in history. I can design plans that eliminate estate tax and pass down great amounts of wealth to the next generation, but many of my clients come to me and say they want a plan like Warren Buffett’s, leaving their kids enough so they can do anything, but not so much that they can do nothing. Now they ask me, and I am asking you, ‘How much is that, and how do you keep from ruining your kids?’” And then the crowd applauded. “I felt even more relief. I asked a question that got approval from the crowd,” Blum says. I won’t use all of Buffett’s answer, but it’s a good, even great answer. It probably should be turned into a gift book for parents with photos of families in Kodak moments (better use that phrase while it’s still part of our cultural lexicon). It’s that good. From the Oracle of Omaha: “I think that more of our kids are ruined by the behavior of their parents than by amount of the inheritance. Your children are learning about the world through you and more through your actions than they are through your words. From the moment they’re born, you’re their natural teacher. And it is a very important and serious job, and I don’t actually think that the amount of money that a rich person leaves to their children is the determining factor at all. In terms of how children turn out, I think that the atmosphere and what they see about them and how their parents behave are more important.” The question and answer were reported in a variety of publications covering the event, though Blum was not identified. But that’s OK, says Blum. After all, that was Marvin Blum’s very good, no very great week.

In Market is a column written from the perspective of a plugged-in business journalist about business happenings in and around Tarrant County. Got an idea for In Market? Robert Francis can be reached at rfrancis@bizpress.net. .

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