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Warren Buffett's favorite encyclopedia became his 'most difficult problem.' Here's the story of World Book.

Warren Buffett's favorite encyclopedia became his 'most difficult problem.' Here's the story of World Book.
AP Photo/Nati Harnik



One of Warren Buffett's favorite businesses became his "most difficult problem" less than a decade after he bought it.




The Berkshire Hathaway CEO acquired World Book in 1986, trumpeting its market dominance, positive ratings, competitive pricing, and his personal connection to its encyclopedias.




However, online learning tools and digital encyclopedias such as Microsoft's Encarta soon decimated the business.




"Berkshire's most difficult problem is World Book," Buffett told investors in 1996. "It is not the business it was five years ago."




View Business Insider's homepage for more stories.



One of Warren Buffett's favorite businesses became his "most difficult problem" less than a decade after he bought it.
The billionaire investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO acquired World Book, a print publisher of encyclopedias, as part of Scott Fetzer in 1986. "It sells more sets in the US than its four biggest competitors combined,"Buffett told shareholders in his annual letter, adding that its competitive pricing and positive ratings made it a quality purchase.
Another draw was the personal connection to its flagship product felt by Buffett and his partner, Charlie Munger.
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