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商业 - 传媒与文化

巴菲特之子的中国明星路

Bill Powell 2011年10月14日

他那大名鼎鼎的父亲在中国备受崇拜,被奉为“股神”。如今,彼得•巴菲特自己在这个一心追求财富的国度也成了明星——他写了一本传达激进理念的书:《金钱不是万能的》(Money isn't everything)。

    概括描述一个有13亿人口的大国有时候挺不容易,这还是比较温和的说法。不过,让我们冒点风险,这么说吧,如果称中国是个着迷于金钱的国家,恐怕没有多少人会有异议。中国最重要的一句口号或许出自这个国家的改革领导人邓小平之口:“致富光荣”。中国人把沃伦•巴菲特称为股神,每次他到访,中国媒体会追踪他的一言一行。迄今为止,已有超过40本关于沃伦•巴菲特的书被翻译成中文。

    在这样背景下,股神现年53岁、为人谦逊的儿子彼得•巴菲特最近凭借自己的能力成了中国一颗冉冉升起的新星,这事倒也相当有趣。他的成功可不是因为人们想象的那样,股神的投资头脑通过DNA遗传给了儿子。彼得•巴菲特是个成功的音乐家和作曲家,为不少电视剧和电影配过乐【《与狼共舞》(Dances With Wolves)的原声大碟就出自彼得之手,是他最杰出的作品之一】。他还常在音乐会上演奏新世纪(New Age)音乐,最近一次演出是今年8月份在北京探戈坞的音乐会,那是长城脚下一个新兴户外音乐场地。

    可是,北京与马林郡终究不同。在当今中国,靠新世纪音乐只能走这么远。彼得•巴菲特引起许多中国人,特别是学生和年轻专业人士的关注,乃是因为他喜欢在演奏音乐的同时提供人生建议。他传达的核心信息中,有一部分简而言之就是金钱不是万能的,尽管这在当下的中国颇为有违直觉,但这正是他拨动许多人心弦的原因。沃伦•巴菲特如今在中国的巨星地位可以让我们了解现在的中国,而彼得的成功或许可以使我们窥见中国今后的走向。

    今年稍早些时候,一家北京出版公司决定利用中国人对巴菲特的热情大赚一笔,因此翻译了彼得2010年写的一本书,名为《打造自己的人生:找到自我实现之路》(Life Is What You Make It: Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment)。该书在美国的销量一般,今年3月在中国出版时以《做你自己》(Be Yourself)为书名。截至8月份,这本书的销量已经达到32万本。即使在一个13亿人口的大国,这也是个很大的数字。据该书中国出版商新世界出版社(New World Press)总编张海鸥透露,今年春夏,该书在网上的销量平均每天达到了1,000本。“我们当初的期望值很高。但老实说,这样业绩还是吓了我们一跳,”张海鸥称。

    今年春季,彼得在中国四个城市巡回推广他的新书,与他在美国常采用的方式一样,他把音乐与所要传达的信息结合起来【这类活动称为“音乐与对话”(Concert and Conversation)】。他还接受了全国和地方的25次平面以及网络媒体采访,包括在新浪微博(中国版的Twitter)上与网友互动,对学生和青年专业人士来说,微博已经成了最重要的网络媒体。

    在此之前,彼得只来过中国一次。尽管他知道父亲在这个国家备受尊崇,但对于其受欢迎程度还是没有充分的预计。今年8月,长城脚下演唱会的前一天,彼得在北京一家酒店称,人们的热情接待使他颇为惊讶。“我可没预想到这种情况,”他笑着说,“就像总统竞选之旅或者别的什么重大活动,到处都是记者。”

    你得记住,尽管彼得•安德鲁•巴菲特是股神和已故的苏珊•巴菲特(他的母亲逝世于2004年)的第二个儿子,他并不习惯这种巨星待遇。事实上,他们的生活方式与此相差甚远。他和妻子珍妮弗在纽约有个住所,但大多数时候,他们都居住在安静的纽约州阿尔斯特郡,距离纽约市以北90英里。(夫妻俩没有孩子。)除了追求音乐生涯之外,他和哥哥及姐姐一样,都掌管着自己的慈善基金会。基金会由父亲沃伦慷慨地用伯克希尔哈撒韦(Berkshire Hathaway)的股票设立。(他的姐姐苏茜仍住在奥马哈,专注于慈善事业;他的哥哥霍华德在伊利诺伊州的迪凯特拥有一座农场。)说起彼得•巴菲特,他最重要的特征是,看起来绝对、完全正常。听起来不可能,但事实如此。他踏踏实实、和蔼可亲,没有一丁点神经衰弱的迹象,也毫无不安全感。“哦,没错,”他说,“许多人都会感到奇怪,你是沃伦•巴菲特的儿子,你怎么会这么正常?”

    It is -- and this is putting it mildly -- sometimes difficult to generalize about a nation of 1.3 billion people. But let's go out on a limb and say there aren't many who would quibble with the description of China as money-obsessed. This is a nation in which arguably the most important phrase ever attributed to its transformational leader, Deng Xiaoping, was "to get rich is glorious." In China they call Warren Buffett the "god of stocks," and whenever he visits, the Chinese media cover his every move and utterance. There have been over 40 books about Warren Buffett translated into Chinese.

    Which makes it very interesting that Peter Buffett, Warren's unassuming 53-year-old son, has recently become a rising star in China in his own right. And it's not because everyone thinks Warren's investment acumen has been handed down via DNA. Peter Buffett is a successful musician and a composer, writing scores for television and film (the Dances With Wolves soundtrack is one of his prominent credits) and performing his New Agey music in concert. He played most recently in August at Beijing Tanglewood, a gorgeous new outdoor concert space in the shadow of the Great Wall.

    But Beijing isn't exactly Marin County. In today's China, New Age music will take you only so far. The reason Buffett has piqued the interest of a lot of Chinese -- students and young professionals in particular -- is that he has taken to dispensing life advice along with his music. And if part of his core message -- in essence, that money isn't everything -- seems rather counterintuitive in China these days, that's precisely the reason he has struck a chord. Warren Buffett's rock-star status tells us something about what China is today; Peter's success might tell us something about where it's going.

    Earlier this year a publisher in Beijing decided to capitalize on the Chinese demand for all things Buffett and translate a book Peter had written in 2010, titled Life Is What You Make It: Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment. It sold modestly in the U.S. and was released in China in March. Carrying the Chinese title Be Yourself, by the end of August the book had sold 320,000 copies -- a huge number, even in a country of 1.3 billion. Through much of the spring and summer, says Zhang Haióu, editor-in-chief of New World Press, Buffett's Chinese publisher, they were selling 1,000 copies a day online. "We obviously had hoped for the best, but honestly, we were stunned," says Zhang.

    Buffett did a four-city promotional tour this past spring in which, as he often does in the States, he paired his music with his message. ("Concert and Conversation," the events are called.) He did 25 press interviews with the electronic and print media -- national and local -- including a web chat on what, for students and young professionals, has become the most important media site of them all, Sina.com's microblog (the Chinese version of Twitter).

    It was only his second visit to China. And though he was aware of his father's status in the country, he hadn't quite grasped the magnitude of it. Sitting in a Beijing hotel in August, a day before his Great Wall concert, Buffett says he was taken aback by the intensity of the reception. "It wasn't quite what I was expecting," he says, laughing. "It was like a presidential campaign or something. There were reporters everywhere."

    You have to remember that while Peter Andrew Buffett may be the second son of the "god of stocks" and the late Susan Buffett -- his mother died in 2004 -- he is not used to the star treatment. Far from it, in fact. He and his wife, Jennifer, have a place in New York City but spend much of their time in quiet Ulster County, N.Y., 90 miles north of the city. (The couple have no children.) In addition to pursuing his music career, he, like his two older siblings, runs his own charitable foundation, which his father has funded generously with Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) stock. (His sister, Susie, still lives in Omaha and focuses on her philanthropic work; his brother, Howard, owns a farm in Decatur, Ill.) Above all, the key thing about Peter Buffett is that he appears to be absolutely and completely normal. It hardly seems possible, but there it is. Well-grounded, affable, nary a twitch of neurosis or insecurity about him. "Oh, yeah," he says, "I get that all the time. You're Warren Buffett's son, and you're soooo normal."

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