Jim Clayton grew up the son of a sharecropper in Tennessee and eventually went on to found Clayton Homes, currently the largest producer and seller of manufactured housing in the US.
Buffett credits Clayton’s autobiography with inspiring him to invest in Clayton Homes in 2003. In his 2003 shareholder letter, he wrote that the book was a gift to him from students at the University of Tennessee. Buffett told the students how much he enjoyed the book, and they urged him to call Kevin Clayton, Jim’s son and the company’s CEO, to deliver the praise directly.
“Soon thereafter, I made an offer for the business based solely on Jim’s book, my evaluation of Kevin, the public financials of Clayton,” and his experience buying “distressed junk” from Oakwood Homes, a retailer of manufactured homes that he later purchased after it filed for bankruptcy.
It’s worth noting that Fast Company reported the deal between Berkshire Hathaway and Clayton Homes was a little more complicated than that.
In his “rags to riches” tale, Clayton shares lessons on business and leadership for current and aspiring entrepreneurs.