Sunday, December 18, 2005

Franchise: durability and strength

The durability and strength of the franchise is the most important thing in figuring out [whether it's a good business]. If you think a business is going to be around 10 or 20 years from now, and that they're going to be able to price advantageously, that's going to be a good business. And if somebody has to have a prayer session every time they want to raise the price a dollar a pound on whatever they're selling, that's not going to be a good business.

What's the highest priced daily newspaper in the United States? Most of you are familiar with it. The highest priced daily newspaper in the United States, with any circulation at all, is the Daily
Racing Form. It sells about 150,000 copies a day, and it has for about 50 years, and it's either $2.00 or $2.25 (they keep raising prices) and it's essential. If you're heading to the racetrack and you've got a choice between betting on your wife's birthday, and Joe's Little Green Sheet, and the Daily Racing Form, if you're a serious racing handicapper, you want The Form. You can charge $2.00 for The Form, you can charge $1.50, you can charge $2.50 and people are going to buy it. It's like selling needles to addicts, basically. It's an essential business. It will be an essential business five or 10 years from now. You have to decide whether horse racing will be around five or 10 years from now, and you have to decide whether there's any way people will get their information about past performances of different horses from different sources. But you've only got about two questions to answer, and if you answer them, you know the business will make a lot of money. The Form has huge profit margins, incidentally. Wider than any other newspaper. They charge what they want to basically. It's an easy to understand business - so easy to understand.


Excerpt from "Three Lectures by Warren Buffett to Notre Dame Faculty, MBA Students and Undergraduate Students"

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