The first time Alan Stein visited the richest man on Earth (give or take), he was struck by the sign above the receptionist in Warren Buffett's outer office.
No one sees the Wizard. No how, No way.
Stein, the Lexington Legends executive, was with William Shea, the Legends' principal owner. In partnership, the two had just bought a controlling interest in the Class AAA Omaha Royals.
One of that team's minority owners — with a 25 percent share — was Buffett, the legendary investor whose net worth has long been measured in the tens of billions.
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As Stein and Shea sat on a couch making small talk, the Oracle of Omaha summoned them.
"Warren stuck his head around the corner, said 'Alan, Bill, come on back,' " Stein said. "It was real low key, real low key. That's Warren's way."
Over the course of their lifetimes, most do not get chances to work with someone considered the best there ever was at something important.
Many consider Warren Buffett the best businessman in American history.
Thanks to his role as president of the Omaha Royals, Stein — the former Lexington radio ad salesman, bar owner and longtime Legends executive — interacts with Buffett up close.
Stein, 57, says he sees Buffett and Walter Scott Jr., another Nebraska billionaire who also owns 25 percent of the Omaha baseball team, "privately two, three times a year.
"We've been in this process of building a new stadium (set to open in 2011) the last couple of years, so I have made it a point to visit with Warren and Walter both whenever a major announcement is looming or we make a decision," Stein said.
Buffett has been a minority investor in the Omaha baseball franchise since 1991. When Shea and Stein became majority owners in 2006, "Warren indicated that he wanted to stay in the deal," Stein said.
The investor comes to the ballpark "two or three times a year," he said.
Still, Buffett "loves baseball. He loves baseball. And he loves to talk baseball," Stein said.
In the investor's private office, a baseball photo is one of Buffett's favorite pieces of memorabilia.
"He and Bob Gibson are good friends," Stein said of the former St. Louis Cardinals pitching great. "Warren's favorite photograph shows him in an Omaha Royals uniform hitting against Bob Gibson. What Warren loves to point out is that you can see the ball going over the shortstop's head."
On May 4, to coincide with the conclusion of the annual shareholders meeting for Buffett's famed Berkshire Hathaway holding company, the Omaha Royals had a Warren Buffett bobblehead giveaway to the first thousand fans to visit Rosenblatt Stadium.
"That tickled him," Stein said. "We had people from all over the country trying to get a hold of one of those dolls."
No, Stein said, Buffett does not give him stock tips.
"In specific terms, no," Stein said. "But his insights about business and the economy are often dead on, and you can gather from his insights the direction you ought to be thinking about going. He really is a fascinating guy. And he's smart."
As an investor, Buffett is famous for buying only companies whose workings he understands thoroughly.
"The thing about Warren, he really pays attention," Stein said. "He knows our business through and through."
Does Buffett make suggestions on how to best run a minor-league baseball franchise?
"No," Stein said. "He wants to be informed and he pays very close attention, and he is very quick to tell me what we are doing right."
In dealing with Buffett, "he is exactly as he appears on TV and in his books," Stein said. "He is very genial, down-to-earth. When you deal with him, he's just a regular guy."
Well, up to a point.
On one of the most recent times Alan Stein visited the richest man on Earth (give or take), he was struck by something unusual.
Warren Buffett was tardy in keeping the appointment.
"He was about three, four minutes late," Stein said.
After Buffett came and invited Stein into his private office, he apologized.
Said Stein: "As he was walking down the hallway, he said, 'I'm really sorry. I was on the phone with Obama.' "