Warren Buffett's Granddaughter Feels Bad About Her Check

Nicole Buffett is the adopted granddaughter of Warren Buffett. Lest you feel too envious, though, she tells Marie Claire that she's been disowned and won't be getting any of his money. None of it.

Nicole Buffett is a "struggling" artist in San Francisco, if by "struggling" you mean, "makes $40,000 a year off the sale of her paintings alone, partly because she's Warren Buffet's granddaughter" which actually sounds like a pretty good living for anyone who makes a go of it in the creative arts. She "can't afford" cable television or health insurance, which places her among the 47 million Americans who can't afford the latter (one-sixth of the country, give or take). But, you know, given her upbringing, we're supposed to feel badly for her.

Although, actually, her upbringing wasn't that of the privileged little rich girl — Buffet is notoriously stingy and she describes her family as a "meritocracy" in which she had no idea her grandfather was crazy rich until she was 17. She does concede that he spent more than $100,000 on her art school education, as he did for all his grandchildren, but wouldn't pay any non-school expenses for her or anyone else.

For this, she paid him back by appearing in a documentary by another American heir about the gap between rich and poor in which she complained that Mr. Buffett didn't include her in his philanthropic decisions and said she was scared of the repercussions of discussing her grandfather's personal finances with the world. It was a decision she didn't discuss with her grandfather, even as she appeared to be laying claim to her piece of the Buffet pie. She was right to have been scared, because, when he saw it, he cut her off.

...Buffett was galled. He had for some time felt ambivalent about Nicole and her sister's claim to his fortune - though Peter had legally adopted them, he divorced their mother in 1993 and remarried three years later. To make matters worse, while plugging the film on Oprah, Nicole confessed, "It would be nice to be involved with creating things for others with that money and to be involved in it. I feel completely excluded from it."

The perceived sense of entitlement and Nicole's self-appointed role as family spokesperson prompted Buffett to tell [her father] Peter that he'd renounce her. A month later, the mega-billionaire mailed Nicole a letter in which he cautioned her about the pitfalls of the Buffett name: "People will react to you based on that 'fact' rather than who you are or what you have accomplished." He punctuated the letter by declaring, "I have not emotionally or legally adopted you as a grandchild, nor have the rest of my family adopted you as a niece or a cousin." Nicole was devastated. "He signed the letter 'Warren,'" she says. "I have a card from him just a year earlier that's signed 'Grandpa.'"

Sounds like he was pretty pissed at having his granddaughter — one to whom he hadn't been technically related in more than a decade — call him stingy and suggest she should be involved in his finances.

Anyway, fine, her grandfather was mean to her and when he dies she won't get a penny. When I cut my $400 check every month for the next 15 years to pay back the student loans in pursuit of the education I wanted, and my $183 check for my self-bought health insurance every month for the next year, I'll think of her sadly bemoaning how her apology-less selling out of her still-living grandfather to make a political point means she won't inherit a bazillion dollars and feel really bad.

The Billionaire's Black Sheep [Marie Claire]