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Warren Buffetts Firm Buys $10, Million Share in General Motors

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Warren Buffett's company is apparently bullish on the U.S. auto industry.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. took a new 10-million share stake in General Motors Co. in the first quarter. The investment comes as the Detroit automaker continues to rebound from bankruptcy three years ago. Fueled by U.S. vehicle sales, it posted first-quarter net income of $1 billion.

Buffett drives a GM-made Cadillac DTS sedan, so the investment could be a further sign of his preference among U.S. automakers. Berkshire is not invested in Ford Motor Co. or Chrysler, which is majority owned by Fiat SpA.

But the purchase of the GM stake, worth about $214 million as of Tuesday, could also have been made by one of Berkshire's other investment managers. Berkshire's only other known auto investment is its roughly 10 percent stake in Chinese electric car maker BYD.

Omaha-based Berkshire also revealed in a regulatory filing Tuesday that it boosted its stake in Wal-Mart by almost 8 million shares to 46.7 million shares.

The first-quarter move to expand Berkshire's stake in Wal-Mart came before The New York Times published a report detailing allegations that Wal-Mart executives used bribes to speed the retailer's expansion in Mexico.

Buffett told Berkshire shareholders earlier this month, however, that the scandal didn't change his view on Wal-Mart's value or its earning power.

Berkshire officials don't typically comment on the quarterly investment reports, and they did not respond to a message on Tuesday about the latest update.

The documents Berkshire filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission also don't reveal everything Buffett and the company's two new investment managers were buying and selling in the first quarter. That's because regulators allow them to omit some of the company's holdings from the report.

Berkshire tweaked a number of positions in its $75.3 billion portfolio during the first three months of 2012. It also added a stake of 1.6 million Viacom shares, which was the only new holding reported besides GM.

It also boosted its investments in DirecTV, Liberty Media, DaVita Inc. and the Bank of New York Mellon.

Berkshire reduced its holdings in Intel Corp., Kraft Foods, Dollar General, Procter & Gamble and Verisk Analytics.

The IBM stake that Berkshire first reported last fall grew to 64.4 million shares by the end of March from 63.9 million in December.

Initially, the IBM investment surprised many because Buffett had long refused to invest in technology companies because it's too hard to predict which one will prosper in the long run. But Buffett said in November that IBM had become more of a service company with long-lasting customers who are reluctant to change.

Buffett makes most of the investment decisions at Berkshire, but Tuesday's filing didn't differentiate between choices he made and ones made by the company's other investment managers, Todd Combs and Ted Weschler.

Buffett has said he doesn't typically make investments worth less than $300 million, so many of the moves reported Tuesday are likely the work of Combs or Weschler.

Buffett has praised both Combs and Weschler and said the two men are managing $2.75 billion each, while Buffett oversees the remaining roughly $150 billion.

Combs started at Berkshire last year, so he is further along in building his portfolio. Weschler started early this year.

Berkshire's investments are closely watched in the market because of Buffett's successful record.

Berkshire occasionally receives permission from the SEC to delay disclosing some stock purchases to prevent others who follow Buffett's moves from driving up the price of those stocks before Berkshire completes its purchases. Berkshire then discloses the purchases or sales in a subsequent quarter and issues amended reports for previous quarters.

The SEC says it grants such confidentiality to investment managers only when they can show they would be harmed substantially by immediate disclosure.

Besides investments, Berkshire owns roughly 80 subsidiaries, including clothing, furniture and jewelry firms, but its insurance and utility businesses typically account for more than half of the company's net income. Other major investments include Coca-Cola Co.



Berkshire Hathaway Inc.:

Blackberry: Two More Executives Leave In Corporate Shake-Up

TORONTO (Reuters) - Blackberry maker Research In Motion Ltd is losing two more senior executives as the money-losing company embarks on a strategic overhaul that its new chief executive says could result in its sale.

Alan Brenner, a senior vice president for the BlackBerry platform, will leave after a transition period, and Alistair Mitchell, a vice president for the BlackBerry Messenger instant messaging product, has already left, RIM spokeswoman Tenille Kennedy said in an email on Friday.

A stream of executives have left RIM in the past year as its once-dominant market share has slipped amid fierce competition from Apple Inc and phones running on Google Inc's Android. RIM shares have dropped more than 80 percent from a peak of almost $70 in February 2011, to $12.67 on Nasdaq on Thursday.

Last week, RIM said it would stop issuing financial forecasts and that it was reviewing strategic options, such as entering partnerships and joint ventures or licensing its software.

CEO Thorsten Heins, who took the reins in January when longtime co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie resigned under pressure, would not rule out a possible sale of the company.

Several senior executives announced their departures in last week's earnings report - including Balsillie, who stepped down from the board. RIM posted a net loss of $125 million after booking writedowns on its legacy BlackBerry 7 phones and goodwill.

RIM last recorded a loss under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) in the fiscal 2005 fourth quarter, when it booked tax expenses and paid to resolve a patent infringement case that had threatened to shut down its U.S. operations.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company is seeking a chief marketing officer and a chief operating officer.

In July RIM slashed 2,000 jobs, or about 11 percent of its workforce, to cut costs as sales and profit fell. [ID:nL3E7IP251] Its developer relations and sales and marketing teams were particularly hard hit.

Head of marketing Keith Pardy left in March 2011, just before RIM launched its PlayBook tablet, which fared poorly. Two of his staff later moved to Samsung Electronics.

Chief Operating Officer Don Morrison resigned in July after taking medical leave. A second COO, Jim Rowan, left last week along with Chief Technology Officer David Yach.

Jeff McDowell, senior vice president for platform marketing and alliances, left RIM last July and Tyler Lessard, a senior vice president for global alliances and developer relations, left in September.

Millionaire Actress Zsa Zsa Gabor Estate in Turmoil

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Attorneys for Zsa Zsa Gabor's daughter and husband are scheduled to appear for the first time before a judge who is considering whether the ailing actress needs independent oversight of her finances and medical care.

Wednesday's hearing is the first time attorneys for the two sides will argue their case before Superior Court Judge Reva Goetz, who is being asked by Gabor's daughter to impose a conservatorship.

Constance Francesca Hilton petitioned to be named her mother's conservator in March, but Gabor's husband Frederic von Anhalt wants the request denied. An independent attorney has already logged at least 89 hours evaluating the case to provide Goetz with information for her ruling.

Hilton claims von Anhalt is keeping her mother heavily sedated and may be mismanaging her money, accusations that Gabor's husband of 25 years vehemently denies. In a court filing, he claims that Hilton has created financial problems for Gabor in the past and that he is providing the best possible care.

Gabor, who is confined to her bed and has been in poor health for months, will not attend the hearing.

A doctor who has evaluated her wrote in a court filing that Gabor's well-being is closely tied to her remaining in a familiar environment.

"Continued access to familiar persons and environment are crucial to her comfort and maintenance of her continued health," Dr. Debra Judelson wrote in a report submitted last month.

"She is aware of her own bedroom and is calm and well cared for by husband with assistance of two aides," Judelson wrote.

Hilton, who is seeking access to medical and financial information that von Anhalt has refused to give her, is open to having a third-party act as her conservator, her attorney Kenneth Kossoff has said. Von Anhalt has stated in court filings that he should be appointed conservator if Goetz rules one is necessary.

Gabor, a Hungarian-born sexpot of the 1950s and 1960s, has been in declining health and didn't make an appearance at a February birthday party hosted at her mansion.

Thanks To: Anthony McCartney AP

Under arrest: Billionaire Solomon Lew's Yacht Maridome:
Seized By Court For Ramming Yacht Calixe in Florida.

Billionaire retailer Solomon Lew has found himself in another spot of legal bother after his 54-metre floating place Maridome allegedly collided with another superyacht in Florida.

According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald, mega rich newspaper owner Wendy McCaw – who made millions flogging a mobile phone outfit to US telecommunications giant AT&T in the 1990s – alleged Mr Lew’s Maridome hit her 57-metre boat Calixe in mid-February.

The collision caused an estimated $500,000 in damage. The SMH quoted a source close to Mr Lew as saying that the suit, which is listed in US courts, had been settled by Maridrome’s insurer.

Following the collision, which occurred in a BAE Systems shipyard in Jacksonville, Florida, Mr Lew’s yacht was seized by authorities before being released on April 27 after Maridrome’s insurer lodged a $620,000 bond with the court.

According to the SMH, lawyers for Mr Lew blamed the collision on a failure of Maridrome control systems used to manoeuvre in close quarters. Mr Lew, meanwhile, has had a number of other recent legal battles to contend with, including a high-profile lawsuit over a multimillion-dollar family trust (See Story In Our Wills And Wealth Section) and a property dispute over a Melbourne swimming pool.

Buffett's NetJets Sued By U.S. For Unpaid Taxes

NetJets Inc., the private-plane company owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A), was countersued by the U.S. over $366 million in taxes and penalties.

NetJets in November sued the U.S., saying the federal government had wrongly imposed taxes, interest and penalties totaling more than $642.7 million.                                                

Claiming the federal Internal Revenue Service wrongfully assessed a so-called ticket tax -- an excise tax on payments made in exchange for air transportation -- to private aircraft owners maintaining their own planes, the Columbus, Ohio-based company demanded refunds and abatements.

The federal government, in a revised answer and countersuit filed yesterday in federal court in Columbus, rejected NetJets’ claims and alleged that four of the company’s units owe unpaid taxes and penalties.

NetJets Aviation Inc. owes more than $302.1 million, and another unit, NetJets International, is liable for $52.9 million, the U.S. said. Executive Jet Management Inc. owes $10 million while NetJets Large Aircraft owes $1.19 million, the U.S. claimed.

“NetJets doesn’t comment on pending litigation,” General Counsel Colleen Nissl said in a statement e-mailed to Bloomberg News.

The case is NetJets Large Aircraft Inc. v. U.S., 11- cv-01023, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio (Columbus).