Tag Archives: Warren Buffett

Lunch With Buffett

August 13, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

With food-inspired songs such as “Charleston’s,” “Medium Rare,” and the album’s title track, the duo displays a penchant for sweet-sounding beats and aspirations to dine with Omaha’s most affluent resident, Warren Buffett.

They speculate that arranging lunch with the local billionaire would be easier than getting airplay on local radio stations.

“We want to be heard,” Big Tate says. “The radio DJ abides by guidelines that [forbid] touching the streets. They are afraid to challenge the norm.”

“Radio is stagnant,” Absolut-P adds. “It isn’t as influential as it once was. If we want to make an impact, we’d be better off putting together a lunch with Warren Buffett and creating a buzz from that.”

Or maybe just make up a song about having lunch with Buffett.

Big Tate

That sort of creative thinking would be the driving force behind Absolut-P (aka Stevin Taylor) and Big Tate (aka James Buckley) collaborating on the album.

The idea came from another friend’s fateful encounter with Buffett at a now-closed Omaha steakhouse known to be one of Buffett’s favorite local restaurants.

“A friend of mine happened to be eating at Piccolo Pete’s when she called to tell me that Warren Buffett and Bill Gates were sitting across from her,” Big Tate recalls. “I told her that I needed her to get a picture of them by any means. I’m always thinking of ways to promote our music with imagery and catchy choruses. I was sure that I could come up with a song for that image.”

Big Tate was familiar with Buffett’s history of auctioning off a “power lunch” for charity. In 2016, an anonymous bidder paid $3,456,789 for the experience, with the money going to benefit the Glide Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless and underprivileged residents.

For months, Big Tate continued to stew over his idea. Later in 2016, he partnered with local producer Absolut-P (the P stands for “Perfection”), and they were able to create an infectious melody.

The song’s music video even featured a faux cameo by Buffett (thanks to a cut-out photograph of the billionaire’s face pasted over one of their friends).

They consider it an homage to the wealthy hometown hero.

“We’re from the north side of Omaha, and you don’t see those types of people on the north side,” Big Tate explains. “Other than Bud Crawford, it’s hard to relate to anyone on such a big stage. It’s good to look up to self-made men.”

Absolut-P

“As independent artists, Warren Buffett’s entrepreneurial spirit gives us a sense of self-pride,” Absolut-P says. “He shows us that by investing in ourselves we can reap big rewards.” 

One such investment involved professional mastering for the album by Rick Carson at Make Believe Studios. Absolut-P and Big Tate hope the song resonates with fans of hip-hop, Omaha, and Buffett alike. They released the album Dec. 31, 2016 (with a parental advisory warning for explicit content).

“The album-making process was so organic,” says Big Tate, explaining that hip-hop works best when pursued in a natural, fun way. “We just made songs about what we like; everyone likes to eat at a nice restaurant and order a good prime rib. That made us think of Charleston’s; they have some of the best steaks in Omaha. I like my steak well-done, but I’ve heard that they are very good medium-rare.”

When asked where they would like to take Buffett for lunch, both agree that Time Out Foods or The Taste’s of Soul Cafe would be a good place to accommodate them.

“I’m sure Warren Buffett is used to eating at the finest establishments,” Absolut-P says. “I’d want to give him a taste of our roots with some good food for the soul.”

Find Big Tate on Twitter at @BigTate402 and Absolut-P at @IAmAbsolutP. Both musicians frequently release new songs on social media. Their respective Soundcloud accounts are soundcloud.com/big-tate and soundcloud.com/absolut-p. Lunch with Buffett is available on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, Spinrilla, Google Play, and YouTube. Copies are sold at Homer’s in downtown Omaha.

This article appears in the July/August 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

*Editor’s note: The printed edition misspelled Taylor’s first name as Steven.

The Origins of the Nebraska National Guard

May 15, 2017 by
Photography by contributed by Nebraska National Guard

Wanderings of a lame cow set in motion forces that led to the establishment of the Nebraska National Guard.

“It started when President Franklin Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, creating the Nebraska Territory and opening the frontier to settlers. That summer, an ill-fated bovine wandered from a Utah-bound Mormon wagon train into a large Sioux camp southeast of Fort Laramie (at the time located within Nebraska Territory, now Wyoming), where it was subsequently killed and eaten by young tribesmen. Demanding the arrest of those responsible, the Mormons reported the incident to Lt. John Grattan, the inexperienced leader of Fort Laramie’s U.S. infantry regiment.

Chief Conquering Bear (Brulé Lakota) refused to surrender the young men who had killed the cow, explaining they had done nothing wrong; the cow had voluntarily entered their camp, and, besides, the supposedly guilty men were visitors belonging to another band of Lakota, the Miniconjou. Grattan’s regiment opened fire and mortally wounded Conquering Bear; however, the infantry proved no match for the Brulé warriors, who completely annihilated the military detachment, killing Grattan and his 29 men. Author Douglas Hartman explains the anecdote in his book, Nebraska’s Militia: The History of the Army and Air National Guard.

The “Grattan Massacre” (aka “the Mormon Cow War”)—and the federal government’s failure to fulfill treaty promises—incited bands of Sioux to continue terrorizing settlers on the Mormon and Oregon trails. To augment federal troops, on Dec. 23, 1854, acting Gov. Thomas Cuming issued a proclamation creating the Nebraska Territorial Militia, which later became the National Guard.

The proclamation recommended “the citizens of the territory organize, in their respective neighborhoods, into volunteer companies,” which were grouped into two regiments: one north of the Platte River and one south. Cuming further instructed, “Companies are not to use force in invading or pursuing hostile tribes, but only in self-defense, and then no longer than necessary.”

Funding did not exist, however, so the early militiamen were expected to provide their own arms and equipment. By spring 1855, the state’s first organized units were formed: the Fontanelle Rifles in the town of Fontanelle, some 40 miles north of Omaha, and the Otoe Rifles in Nebraska City. Nebraska Gov. Mark Izard ordered the Rifles to protect Fontanelle, Elkhorn City, and Tekamah after “the Sioux” killed two area settlers. The Indians were nowhere to be found when the militia arrived, so troops spent the summer catching large-channel catfish from the Elkhorn River while “protecting” settlers. This became known as the “Catfish War,” writes Hartman.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Nebraska militias became more involved in fighting against tribes, since most of the nation’s federal military was consumed by the war, says Jerry Meyer, historian for the Nebraska National Guard. Additionally, two Nebraska volunteer militia units fought for the Union in the Southeast.

When Nebraska achieved statehood March 1, 1867, it joined a nation in transition. With the war over, potential recruits had little interest in joining formal militia units, which the new state couldn’t afford to equip anyway.

Nebraska relied on loosely organized, independent militias until 1881, when legislation reorganized them into the Nebraska National Guard, increasing its role as a peacekeeper during times of civil unrest, settling conflicts with Native American tribes, and deploying the first Nebraska troops internationally for the Spanish-American War.

The Nebraska Militia of 1854-1867 wrote the opening chapters of an ongoing legacy of service to the nation, state, and communities. The tradition continues with today’s modern Nebraska Army and Air National Guard, says Lt. Col. Kevin Hynes, spokesman for the Guard’s Public Affairs office.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, more than 10,000 Nebraska National guardsmen and airmen have supported missions overseas and within the United States. When not on federal active duty, the service members remain in Nebraska, available to local authorities during emergency situations.

The Guard was instrumental in protecting Omaha and other Nebraska communities, for example, during the 2011 Missouri River flood, which threatened Eppley Airfield and OPPD power plants. The summer-long flood closed numerous traffic bridges, making it impossible to cross the river for more than 100 miles between Sioux City and Omaha, and between Omaha and Kansas City. Hynes says guardsmen provided surveillance and bolstered levees, and they also provided security for evacuated homeowners.

Currently, the Nebraska Army National Guard is undergoing its largest force restructuring in 20 years. Affecting about 1,100 Nebraska soldiers–or roughly one in three–the changes are bringing in new military occupational specialties, such as engineering and military police.

The realignment will provide current soldiers and those interested in joining with better opportunities for personal and professional growth, from the time they enlist until the time they retire, without having to travel extensively from their hometown communities.

The Nebraska National Guard Museum, located in Seward, Nebraska, is a prime resource for National Guard history, research, and local entertainment. Visit nengm.org for more information about the museum.

Famous Omaha Guardsmen

Warren Buffett

Long before becoming the “Oracle of Omaha,” he was simply Corporal Buffett, enlisting with the Nebraska Army National Guard in 1951 after graduating from Columbia University. The future Berkshire Hathaway founder served six years as a pay specialist, telling the Prairie Soldier newspaper that his financial background probably had something to do with the assignment. One of about 70 members of the Omaha-based 34th Infantry Division Headquarters Company, Buffett told the newspaper of the Nebraska Army and Air National Guard that his fellow guardsmen were “as good of a group of guys that you could’ve found.”

Andrew Jackson Higgins

Expelled his senior year from Omaha’s Creighton Prep for brawling in the early 1900s, Higgins later was praised by President Dwight Eisenhower as the man who won World War II. He designed and built the “Higgins Boat,” a landing craft that unloaded troops across open beaches instead of at heavily guarded ports. This Allied attack strategy was pivotal to the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Higgins served in the Nebraska Army National Guard, attaining the rank of first lieutenant, and learned about boat building and moving troops over water during militia maneuvers on the Platte River. A historical marker honors him in Columbus, Nebraska.

Visit ne.ng.mil to learn more about the Nebraska National Guard.

This article printed in the May/June 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Local Champions Bring Millions Home

April 29, 2016 by

It’s one thing to love a city, it’s quite another to try and convince national associations, sporting organizations, and groups to plan a meeting, convention or event in your city. If it was easy cities wouldn’t need Convention & Visitors Bureaus, but the unsung champion in the whole process is you.

More than 25 local Omaha residents, from the powerful to the average Joe, have helped bring convention, meeting and event business to our city this year.

With Harold Cliff’s leadership the Omaha Sports Commission (local community leaders who volunteer their time) worked to have Omaha selected to host the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials for a third time. It didn’t hurt that the 2012 Omaha event broke attendance records for any swimming event ever held in the U.S. including the Olympics in Atlanta and Los Angeles.

President and Founder of TotalWellness, Alan Kohll, proves that persistence pays off when Omaha was chosen as the location for the 2016 USA Triathlon. Omaha Zoo CEO, Dennis Pate helped convince the Associations of Zoos and Aquariums to meet in Omaha, the event will bring in 900 attendees from all over the world and more than $1 million in visitor spending.  Omaha City Clerk Buster Brown, having gone to conventions in other cities for years, convinced the International Institute of Municipal Clerks to look at Omaha; they did and will be holding their annual conference here in May. UNO’s Deepak Khazanchi , Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, is constantly putting Omaha’s name in the mix, and this year helped Omaha bring the World Intelligence Congress meeting to Omaha. Following in Warren Buffett’s footsteps, Lori and Paul Hogan, who own Home Instead Senior Care, hold their companies international convention in Omaha every year – they could go anywhere, they choose to bring the meeting business home.

This is just a small sampling of the convention and sporting business coming to Omaha in 2016, yet it means more than $53 million in economic impact for the city.

From the Omaha Lions Club to the local Cat Clubs, Omaha residents are making a real impact. And it’s simple for you to do the same. If you are a member of an organization, association or sporting group think about bringing your organization’s meeting or event to Omaha.  We’ll do all the heavy lifting; we just need a local boost from you.

Stranger in a Strange Land

December 30, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Growing up in London, Stuart Chittenden found himself a bit obsessed with America: its historical complexities, its social turmoil, its pioneering spirit, its glitz and glamor. He read tons of American authors, luxuriating in the majesty of the open road as portrayed in works like John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. He watched Taxi and Mash.

Eventually, Chittenden moved to Omaha, married an American woman (fashion writer Amy Chittenden), and landed probably the most interesting job title ever: chief curiosity officer for David Day Associates. He’s a perennial TEDxOmaha presenter and something of a conversation artist. His consultancy, Squishtalks, offers conversation-based workshops for businesses, organizations, and individuals.

Chittenden’s recent project, “a couple of 830 mile long conversations,” marks his most significant offering to the cultural fabric of our state (so far).

“a couple of 830 mile long conversations” traverses the state’s vast geography to explore the ways in which landscape—physical, historical—informs a sense of community. The effort, one that received funding from Humanities Nebraska/Nebraska Cultural Endowment, Omaha Creative Institute, and several individuals, is part field recording, part personal quest to understand an unfamiliar place.

Last summer, Chittenden packed some pricey mobile audio-recording equipment—on loan from Clete Baker of Studio B—into an aging R.V. and rambled west down highways and gravel roads seeking to capture a representative sample of the voice of Nebraska as it exists in the moment.

By recording unscripted, spontaneous conversations in public (libraries, cafes, sidewalks) he began to discover the feeling of life in Gordon, Chadron, Norfolk, Alliance, Broken Bow, and other places formerly alien to him.    

“I had a sense of what Nebraska could be,” he says. “I’d seen photographs. I’d heard people describe their experiences growing up in smaller towns. I expected to be surprised by some of the beauty in different places, and maybe to find some places to be a little drab—this idea of rural communities sort of collapsing in on themselves.”

That’s pretty much what happened. Some communities emanated vibrancy; others seemed bleak. The prairie’s “very quiet but intimidating beauty” struck him as sublime, most evidently in the lakes and waterways. The Sand Hills, greatly exaggerated by friends and colleagues over the years, did not blow his mind.

“Overwhelmingly, I was warmly received,” he notes. “I was really impressed with the courage of many people to engage with someone who was obviously a stranger. Even those people that didn’t choose to join in the conversation, they were warm.”

Happily, the conversations he recorded dug deeper than weather and the Huskers. “I remember one gentleman, he was in a mobile electric wheelchair. I literally sat on the curb for 90 minutes and chatted with him.”

As for how landscape shapes a community’s self-perception, Chittenden noticed a marked shift the further west he went. The primary difference between eastern and western Nebraska, he contends, has to do with geography’s time-compression effect. The buttes, vast skies, and wagon ruts of western Nebraska seem to shrink the years, creating a visceral connection to history.

That’s not to say the pioneering spirit is dead in Omaha. It simply takes a different form here: the entrepreneurial mindset.

“In Omaha,” Chittenden says, “they don’t look for wagons. They look for Warren.”

Visit 830nebraska.com to listen to stories from the project.

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Nostalgia: Ain’t What it Used to Be

April 17, 2015 by

Originally published in May/June 2015 edition of 60-Plus in Omaha.

Peony Park was where you danced indoors in the Royal Terrace Ballroom and under the stars in the Royal Grove.

Remember meeting the amusement park’s mascot, Peony the Skunk? (Some people called her “Stinky.”) Or playing Dodgem? Or KOIL Radio’s dance party in the Royal Grove? Or splashing in the Peony Park swimming pool?

You have been around at least 50 years if you remember never seeing women on the Omaha City Council. Betty Abbott blazed the way in 1965. Of course, Omaha finally has its first woman mayor. And it only took 160 years after the city’s founding.

Your first escalator ride was at the downtown Brandeis store on what was the city’s first escalator.

Come to think of it, you remember when there was an actual Brandeis store, a place where shopping became a social event.

Younkers’ stores were called Kilpatrick’s.

Your “health club” was a YWCA or YMCA.

And the YWCA was actually called the YWCA, not the Women’s Center for Advancement.

Horses, not college students, were housed in the Ak-Sar-Ben area. The college students are only slightly less messy than the horses were.

Ak-Sar-Ben horse racing was a live video game you played before there were video games.

Warren Buffett was yet to make his first billion. Remember when you could afford to buy a share of Berkshire Hathaway?

The idea of “Omaha” extended only about as far as 90th Street. Today, that’s more like midtown.

The Henry Doorly Zoo was called Riverview Park. There was a lone, forlorn bear and two moose.

The sprawling University of Nebraska-Omaha was then the smaller University of Omaha, called disparagingly by some “West Dodge High.”

Remember when Elkhorn was a city? Oh, wait…that wasn’t so very long ago!

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Saying Yes to Omaha

March 12, 2015 by
Photography by Fox Business Network

Originally published in March/April/May 2015 B2B Magazine

The Omaha billionaire gave Fox Business Network Anchor Liz Claman two of them. But the market maven still got the deal she was after—what eventually became the hour-long 2006 CNBC report, “Warren Buffett: The Billionaire Next Door.”

“He rejected the first couple of pitches,” Claman says.

Initially, Claman proposed talking about upcoming mid-term elections. “He summarily said, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen in politics.’” Claman countered, suggesting they talk about what might happen a bit closer to Buffett’s wheelhouse—the markets. Again, Claman got a “no.”

“He said, ‘I don’t know where the market’s going.’ Now I’ve struck out twice.”

She got a hit on her third swing, suggesting she come to Omaha and ask Buffett how he values a business. “That’s all he cares about—finding great, appropriately valued businesses.

“I finally got it right. I remember it so crystal clearly. It really was a pivotal moment in my career. Journalists get a lot of ‘nos.’ The really good ones don’t take no for an answer.”

Make no mistake, Claman’s one of the good ones. She made a national name for herself with CNBC then, in October 2007, jumped to Fox Business Network where today she anchors “Countdown to the Closing Bell.” Her debut with Fox? An exclusive with Buffett, of course.

Claman has made it to Omaha more than a dozen times, mostly to report on the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting. And she’s still getting her one-on-one with Buffett, as well as time with his sidekicks, Berkshire VP Charlie Munger and fellow billionaire buddy Bill Gates.

Claman knew precious little about Buffett’s hometown before her first visit. “My mother was a huge fan of Willa Cather and had us read all her books,” she says. “That’s what I knew.”

But it’s become a welcome spring break. “I never, never roll my eyes thinking I ‘have’ to go to Omaha,” she says. “I love the restaurants. I have my favorite people, favorite places. Omaha has a vibe to it.”

Especially the food. She mentions Twisted Fork, M.’s Pub, Mahogany Prime Steakhouse, and V. Mertz (“As good as any high-end New York restaurant,” she says). Last year, she held a meet-and-greet at 801 Chophouse. And at Buffett’s request she ran a 5k charity run sponsored by a Berkshire holding company. Then again. And again. The Fox Business crew joins her.

She’ll cover her ninth Berkshire annual meeting when it convenes May 2. It never gets old.

“There’s nothing like it in corporate America or the business world,” says Claman, who’s covered the meeting from recession to recovery. “I think Warren and Charlie work very hard to keep it fresh every single time, and every year they really stay on the news of what’s happening and also pointing forward to where they think it’s going.”

Claman has to continually reinvent her reporting of Buffett, too. She’s interviewed him 31 times, but often with a different twist. It’s a must given the copycat nature of news reporting. One year there was an hour-long sit-down with Buffett, Munger and Gates as the markets opened. Then came the Monday sit-downs. Then questions with Buffett on the Thursday preceding the meeting—right before a bridge game. Then an interview at the Hilton—“Berkshire Central,” Claman calls it—as shareholders were checking in.

CNBC and Bloomberg News have followed suit. But Claman, like Buffett, seems to always stay one step ahead of the competition.

“Each time we do something different,” she says. “I always have something up my sleeve. It’s really on us to keep it fresh and different.”

Claman-Buffett

Eclectic Ladyland

January 19, 2015 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Girls Inc. of Omaha Executive Director Roberta Wilhelm is known for growing the nonprofit and inspiring girls to be “strong, smart, and bold” with excellent programs and luminous Lunch for the Girls speakers, like President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Madeleine Albright, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Warren Buffett, all three Clintons—Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea—and, most recently, the Bush twins.

“The speakers have had great messages,” says Wilhelm, “but [attendees] always say, ‘Your girls are as impressive as the speakers.’ They’re a very important part of the luncheon,” says Wilhelm.

While the amazing roster is ubiquitous, what you might not know about Wilhelm is she’s a lifelong theater lover, former military kid, and owner of a very eclectic iPod.

“I’m a creative person; in my background, the way I operate, approach life, and think about human beings,” she says. “I’m sure that influences my work.”

Wilhelm’s background and degrees are in theater. Before her 11 years at Girls Inc., she spent 20 at The Emmy Gifford Children’s Theatre (later The Rose).

“I did a little bit of everything there,” says Wilhelm. She got her foot in the door as assistant to the receptionist, later being promoted to receptionist. “I was a very bad receptionist,” says Wilhelm, smiling though clearly not joking. She continued there, in bookkeeping, performing, artistic staff, directing, and eventually Executive Director.

Wilhelm’s love of theater began at age 6, when her mother took her to The Miracle Worker, continuing with excursions to Broadway and her own performances. Wilhelm recalls auditioning for a 4th-grade production of The Emperor and the Nightingale. “I raised my hand and said, ‘Is there any reason it couldn’t be The Empress?’” The teacher couldn’t see why not and, with that, Wilhelm had herself a starring role.

Her parents are from New Jersey, but with a military father Wilhelm grew up “all over,” meaning: Jersey, New York, Virginia, Kentucky, Kansas, and Tehran, Iran.

Wilhelm has five grown children and stepchildren. She and husband, Vic Gutman, are guardian to three boys, ages 14, 12, and 7.

“I’m almost never off the clock,” she adds, “but I like to spend time with my [Girls Inc.] mentee and my kids. I like Film Streams…watching documentaries. I’m an avid reader, and I love to have coffee with friends.”

She and Gutman enjoy taking their three dogs to the park and share a passion for travel. While she does go see theater occasionally, she prefers being involved in productions
to spectating.

Whether on or off the clock, Wilhelm always makes time for tunes. “I love music,” she says, “I have it on in the car, at work, everywhere.” Her iPod features everything from her 20-year-old musician son’s music to Motown, disco, rock, pop, and hip-hop.

“I like the Neville Brothers, The Blind Boys of Alabama, U2,” says Wilhelm, getting out her iPod for reference. “Adele, Aerosmith, Al Green—I love Al Green—Beach Boys, Beatles, Ben Harper…and that truncated lists didn’t even go beyond the second letter of the alphabet. “I also have some punk stuff on here from my college days.”

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Liz Claman

May 2, 2014 by

Fox Business Network anchor Liz Claman will host a meet-and-greet today at 801 Chophouse from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m.

Claman, who hosts the network’s Countdown to the Closing Bell With Liz Claman, is making her ninth visit to Omaha to cover the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting. She will do a live shoot from the restaurant as part of a daylong series of Fox Business Network segments.

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Omaha Press Club

October 29, 2013 by
Illustration by Jim Horan

While other city clubs have closed in defeat, the Omaha Press Club marks its 42nd anniversary on the 22nd floor of the First National Center in Downtown Omaha.

Does the club stay open because of the spectacular view from windows stretching to the ceiling? The glowing copper fireplace? The food?

Executive Director Steve Villamonte explains the club’s durability, even through a recession: “There is something going on all the time. The club offers events from lunch-and-learn opportunities to wine dinners to holiday buffets.”

Retired WOWT newscaster Gary Kerr and his committee hold monthly educational events. Sports forums at noon feature such topics as Nebraska football and 
Creighton basketball.

Each year, journalists are inducted into the OPC Hall of Fame. Their names are engraved on a plaque in the club’s Hall of History. Among the first inducted in 2008 were Omaha Star publisher Mildred Brown (read more on Brown), NBC-TV’s Floyd Kalber, and legendary radio sportscaster Lyell Bremser.

The OPC Foundation’s annual Omaha Press Club Show, which raises funds for journalism scholarships, will be held next year on April 3.

The space’s premier event is the ‘Face on the Barroom Floor’ dinner. When the club’s restaurant opened in 1971, members decided to celebrate the people who give journalists something to write about. Walls are now covered with caricature drawings of 
newsmakers’ faces.

The satirical artwork by artist Jim Horan (full disclosure…yes, the author is Jim’s wife, and she also serves on the organization’s board) is presented in fun as friends roast the subject. A zinger directed to Larry the Cable Guy is a sample of the teasing that honorees endure: “I’m happy to say fame has not gone to his [Larry’s] head, only to his waistline.”

The most recent honoree was Omaha Magazine publisher Todd Lemke.

The first caricature was that of fun-loving Omaha Mayor Gene Leahy. Nebraska football coach Bob Devaney followed him in 1972. Also that year, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew dropped by the club to see his ‘Face.’

Agnew had a love-hate relationship with the press, whom he once famously described as “nattering nabobs of negativism.” So it was with tongues in cheek that Omaha Press Club officers named a private room at the club the “Spiro Agnew Room.”

Among other well-known ‘Faces’ hanging on the club’s walls are Bob Gibson, Chuck Hagel, Tom Osborne, and Johnny Carson.

Horan said that his drawing of Warren Buffett is his favorite because of the billionaire’s unruly hair: “Warren looked at his caricature the night he roasted Walter Scott at a ‘Face’ event and quipped, ‘I’ve got to rethink that 25 cent tip for my barber.’”

The disappearance of Buffett’s ‘Face on the Barroom Floor’ became national news in 2008. The New York Times and Forbes magazine were among media that published stories about the missing artwork. Omaha heaved a sigh of relief when the drawing was finally found.

On Sept. 9, the Lauritzen Room was dedicated to honor the First National Bank family that helped open the club 42 years ago.

“Without their continuing support,” Villamonte says, “it would have been difficult for us to succeed.”

Omaha Business Hall of Fame

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The Omaha Business Hall of Fame was inaugurated in 1993 to honor the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s 100th anniversary. Since then, the chamber has recognized more than 100 men and women for their leadership in Omaha’s growth. Stories of the honorees inducted during the past 20 years are on display at The Durham Museum.

Five successful business leaders will join them at the museum after they are inducted on April 23 at the Holland Performing Arts Center: Susan Jacques, Mogens Bay, Marshall Faith, William “Willy” Theisen, and James Young.

Proceeds from the Omaha Business Hall of Fame gala support a permanent exhibit at The Durham Museum and provide funding for the Chamber’s Greater Omaha Young Professionals Summit.

Susan Jacques
President and CEO
Borsheims

A gem of an executive, Susan Jacques is one of five business leaders headed for the Omaha Business Hall of Fame. While studying at the Gemological Institute of America in Santa Monica, Calif., Susan Jacques met a classmate who would change the direction of her career.

Alan Friedman suggested she come work for his father’s store in Omaha to gain retail experience. His father, Ike Friedman, owned Borsheims at the time.

Sol “Coke” Friedman remembers that his late brother, Ike, had high regard for Jacques. “She probably knew more about gemstones than anybody in the store.”

Jacque’s passion for gems and jewelry began during her childhood in Rhodesia. She earned her graduate Gemology diploma in 1980 from the Gemological Institute of America. Jacques graduated with distinction from the Gemological Association of Great Britain and in 1982 was named “most outstanding student worldwide.”

Her knowledge, along with business savvy, propelled Jacques from a sales clerk and appraiser in 1982 to the store’s top position in 1994. Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway—Borsheims’ majority owner since 1989—named Jacques president and CEO.

Borsheims has become one of the nation’s largest independent jewelry stores, with 62,500 square feet of space and 100,000 pieces of inventory.

“I’ve watched her grow as an individual and as a business person with the company as it has grown,” says Coke, a retired businessman. “She is just a good person. That might be the highest compliment you can pay a person.”

Jacques is presently chairman of the Gemological Institute of America where she studied. She received the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Jewelry Association and was inducted into the 1997 National Jeweler’s Retailer Hall of Fame. She serves on the Creighton University board of directors and is a trustee of the Business Ethics Alliance.

She and her husband, Gene Dunn, have three sons. The couple recently bought Gorat’s Steakhouse from the family that had owned the restaurant since 1944. Shareholders have gathered for dinner at Gorat’s during the Berkshire Hathaway meeting for years.

In a business that depends on trust and a handshake, Susan Jacques has found her niche at Borsheims.

“She is one of those people if you didn’t know her, you would want to,” says Coke. “Susan has the knack of treating everyone as if they are a friend, which in the retail business is very important.”

On April 23, Susan Jacques will join her former boss, the late Ike Friedman, and her current boss, Warren Buffett, in the Omaha Business Hall of Fame.

Mogens C. Bay
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Valmont Industries Inc.

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A career with Valmont has taken Mogens Bay to Hong Kong, Madrid, and to Omaha’s corporate headquarters. He has led Valmont through a significant period of growth over the past 20 years to become the world’s leader in engineered products for infrastructure and efficient irrigation equipment for agriculture. He heads an organization with 100 worldwide manufacturing locations and more than 10,000 employees committed to making products that make the world a better place to live.

Marshall Faith
Vice Chairman of the Board
The Scoular Company

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In 1967, Marshall Faith purchased a majority interest in The Scoular Company. Now with nearly 700 employees and 70 locations, Scoular serves customers in food, feed, and renewable fuel markets. Annual sales are more than $6 billion. In his 45th year with Scoular, Faith continues his philosophy of providing employees good jobs, good pay, and good opportunities. With a son and grandson in the business, Faith is counting on Scoular continuing at least another 120 years.

William (Willy) M. Theisen
President
Business Ventures LLC

Willy Thiesen

Many entrepreneurs come up with restaurant concepts. Making the idea work on a national level is how Willy Theisen stands out. He founded Godfather’s Pizza in 1973 and, by the time he sold the company 10 years later, Godfather’s was the country’s fastest-growing restaurant chain. The entrepreneur stayed “ahead of the curve” as owner of the Green Burrito chain in 1992 and Famous Dave’s in 2000. Theisen is now owner/founder of Pitch Coal Fire Pizzeria in Dundee.

James R. Young
Chairman
Union Pacific Corporation

James R. Young

Since joining Union Pacific in 1978, Young has steadily risen in the ranks to the top position. He chairs an internationally focused company that employs 45,000 people in 23 states and 8,000 communities. Young remembers when railroads had a shrinking workforce and concerns about the future. Today, Union Pacific is strong and integral to the U.S. economy. Young has led the evolvement of U.P.’s culture to a dedication to vision, commitment, teamwork, and respect.