Warren Buffett joked he would be 'eating Thanksgiving dinner at McDonald's' if the US government didn't bail out the banks in 2008

Warren Buffett loves McDonald's.

"Becoming Warren Buffett"/HBO

  • Warren Buffett faced a fast-food Thanksgiving in 2008 if US authorities didn’t save the financial system, he joked in a CNBC interview in 2010.
  • “If the government hadn’t acted, I would be eating Thanksgiving dinner at McDonald’s,” he said.
  • The famed investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO wouldn’t mind too much, as he picks up breakfast at the restaurant chain on his way to work every day.
  • Buffett is also the proud owner of a McDonald’s gold card, meaning he can eat for free at the company’s restaurants in Omaha.
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Warren Buffett would have celebrated Thanksgiving with a Big Mac, fries, and a milkshake in 2008 if US officials hadn’t bailed out the banks, he joked in a CNBC interview in 2010.

“If the government hadn’t acted, I would be eating Thanksgiving dinner at McDonald’s,” he quipped.

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The billionaire investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO raised that prospect to underscore the enormous threat posed by the financial crisis in 2008. However, few would put it past him to follow through on a fast-food Thanksgiving.

The Berkshire chief typically grabs breakfast at McDonald’s during his morning drive to the office, opting for a pricier bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit if he’s feeling especially wealthy. He also carries one of the restaurant chain’s gold cards in his wallet, which entitles him to free meals for life within his hometown of Omaha.

“That’s why the Buffett family has Christmas dinner at McDonald’s,” he joked in a CNBC interview in 2007.

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Buffett isn’t shy about showing his love for McDonald’s or his thriftiness, even when he’s spending time with Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest men in the world.

“Remember the laugh we had when we traveled together to Hong Kong and decided to get lunch at McDonald’s?” Gates wrote in a public letter to Buffett in 2017. “You offered to pay, dug into your pocket, and pulled out…coupons!”

Giving thanks to the government

Buffett joked about celebrating Thanksgiving at McDonald’s shortly after he praised the US government’s financial-crisis interventions in a New York Times op-ed.

“The challenge was huge, and many people thought you were not up to it,” he wrote. “Well, Uncle Sam, you delivered.”

“Your grateful nephew, Warren Buffett,” the investor signed the letter.

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There are few people more qualified than Buffett to judge the federal response in that period. When credit markets seized up, Berkshire invested billions of dollars in blue-chip companies including Goldman Sachs and General Electric, and loaned much-needed cash to ailing businesses such as Harley-Davidson. 

The investor also phoned Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson in October 2008 to suggest the US government invest directly in the banks instead of only buying their assets, inspiring a program that may have staved off an even deeper recession.

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