Walter Scott Jr., a billionaire philanthropist and a close friend and business partner of Warren Buffett, died aged 90 on Saturday.
“You cannot find a better model for a citizen than Walter Scott,” Buffett told the Omaha World-Herald in response to the news. “He was basically a builder, whether he was building Kiewit and physical things or building his vision of Omaha or Nebraska. He was nonstop.”
Scott served as CEO of Kiewit Corporation — a construction group that makes highways, tunnels, and other structures — between 1979 and 1998.
He worked on projects including the $425 million Fort McHenry Tunnel in Maryland, the $802 million San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor in California, and the $1.2 billion Hibernia Gravity Base Structure in Newfoundland, Canada.
Both Kiewit and Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway are headquartered in Kiewit Plaza, an office building in Omaha, Nebraska.
He chaired a dot-com darling
Scott spun out several of Kiewit’s businesses in 1998 to create Level 3 Communications, a telecoms company that specialized in building fiber-optic networks to carry internet traffic.
He listed Level 3 on the Nasdaq exchange, and it briefly secured a valuation of more than $40 billion in the late 1990s. However, its stock price plunged once the dot-com bubble burst. The company, which Scott chaired until 2014, was acquired by CenturyLink in 2017.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
Scott and Buffett were close friends and business partners
Buffett and Scott grew up in Omaha, knew each other as teenagers, and were close friends. Scott sat on Berkshire’s board of directors for more than 30 years, and helped the famously frugal Buffett stomach buying his first private jet in 1986.
“You don’t justify it, you rationalize it,” Scott told the conflicted investor at the time.
Source: “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life”
Scott and Buffett built an energy empire
Buffett and Scott joined forces to buy MidAmerican Energy for $2 billion in 1999. The investors later rebranded the utility company as Berkshire Hathaway Energy, and expanded it through capital investments and acquisitions. It generated $21 billion of revenue and over $3 billion in net income in 2020.
He pledged virtually all of his wealth to good causes
Scott signed Buffett’s Giving Pledge in 2010, vowing to donate nearly all of his wealth to good causes. Helping young people and contributing to his community were his two main philanthropic goals, he said in his pledge letter.
The executive donated millions of dollars to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Colorado State University, and other institutions during his lifetime.
Source: The Giving Pledge