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Berkshire Hathaway buys party goods retailer Oriental Trading

Oriental Trading sells party, craft and school supplies, toys and novelties by mail order. Its sale to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is expected to close this month.

November 03, 2012|By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times
  • Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, dressed as Axl Rose, sings in a video for a Geico employees meeting. His firm is buying Oriental Trading Co.
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, dressed as Axl Rose, sings in a video… (Geico )

Warren Buffett: party boy?

It's no secret that the octogenarian Oracle of Omaha knows how to get down.

He plays pingpong at shareholder meetings for his investment firm Berkshire Hathaway Inc. He plays the ukulele on television. He has sung songs while dressed as a paperboy, a rapper and rocker Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses.

Now, the multibillionaire financier can have even more good times, with his purchase Friday of discount party goods retailer Oriental Trading Co.

The mail-order merchant sells a cornucopia of more than 40,000 party supplies, crafts, school supplies, toys and novelties directly to consumers.

Quiz: Test your knowledge of this week's business news

Terms weren't released, but a number of reports listed the sale price at $500 million, or roughly equal to Oriental's annual revenue.

Oriental Trading joins a stable of Berkshire-owned companies, including International Dairy Queen, Geico, Helzberg Diamonds and See's Candies. Both Oriental and Berkshire are based in Omaha.

The party firm had been owned by Los Angeles private equity firm Brentwood Associates, which sold it to Carlyle Group in 2006. Burdened with a huge debt load, higher costs and low consumer demand during the Great Recession and subsequent slow recovery, it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010 to reorganize its liabilities.

Last year, private equity firm KKR & Co. and others bought a majority stake in Oriental Trading as it emerged from bankruptcy. The deal with Berkshire Hathaway is expected to close by the end of the month.

Next up: maybe a Christmas bash, decorated to the nines, at Buffett's place?

tiffany.hsu@latimes.com

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