Who Is Bertie Buffett, Warren Buffett’s Sister Mentioned 20 Times In His Annual Letter?

Warren Buffett said Bertie is a "perfect mental model" when visualizing a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder.

Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway’s 2019 shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images

In Warren Buffett’s 2023 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders published on Feb. 24, an unfamiliar name, Bertie, popped up 20 times. Bertie is Warren Buffett’s younger sister. The legendary investor said Bertie is a “perfect mental model” when visualizing who the owners of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) stock should be.

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“Bertie is smart, wise and likes to challenge my thinking. We have never, however, had a shouting match or anything close to a ruptured relationship,” Buffett wrote. “Bertie, and her three daughters as well, have a large portion of their savings in Berkshire shares. Their ownership spans decades, and every year Bertie will read what I have to say.”

Born three years after Warren, in 1933, Roberta “Bertie” Buffett was the youngest of three children. She and Warren have an older sister, Doris. Their father, Howard H. Buffett, four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1940s and 1950s. Bertie has described her household as a religious one, attending church every Sunday. She was taught to “get good grades, be polite, be helpful, look pretty…and your highest calling would be to find a good husband,” she said in a 2015 documentary by the Kunhardt Film Foundation. She reflects on this saying, “I understand, that was their world.”

Growing up, Bertie remembered spending a lot of time with her grandfather, Ernest P. Buffett, a grocery store owner in Omaha. “He taught me how to play cards, and I loved going over to his house…I still think about him with very fond memories,” she said in the 2015 documentary.

When Howard H. Buffett was first elected to Congress, the Buffett family moved to Fredericksburg, Va. and later to Washington D.C. Bertie described it as a difficult move, where only her sister Doris was able to adjust quickly. Warren, homesick for Omaha, went back to live with his grandfather. In 1948, when Howard H. Buffett lost re-election, the rest of the Buffett family moved back to Omaha, and Bertie enrolled in the local Benson High School.

At 18, Bertie left for Chicago to attend Northwestern University. Unlike Warren, who attended the University of Nebraska, Bertie said her decision to attend the Windy City school was motivated by wanting “something a little further from home, more sophisticated, and more exciting,” she said in an interview with her alma mater last year. She graduated in 1954 with a bachelor’s degree in history and Phi Beta Kappa honors. At Northwestern, she was roommates with Susan Thompson, who would later become Warren’s first wife.

Bertie has been married three times. In 1955, she tied the knot with Charlie Snorf, then an aspiring surgeon whom she met at Northwestern. She later married Dr. Hilton Bialek, who passed away in 2002. In 2007, Bertie married David Elliott, a businessman, who passed in 2017.

Berties is best known for her philanthropic endeavors. In 2014, she made a $101 million donation to create the Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs at Northwestern University.

Her charity also extends to local communities: for over six decades, she has been actively engaged as a board member of various community organizations throughout the Monterey Peninsula in California, where she lives. Notable institutions include the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Carmel Bach Festival, and the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. In 2017, Bertie made a historic contribution to Monterey County by providing substantial funding to pioneer innovative approaches to child and adolescent mental health.

Bertie has three living children: Susan Lansbury, Cynthia Livermore and Carolyn Akcan; she survives another daughter, Sally Snorf.

Who Is Bertie Buffett, Warren Buffett’s Sister Mentioned 20 Times In His Annual Letter?