Billionaire Warren Buffett is best-known as one of the world's best businessmen and successful investors — but, despite its title, HBO's documentary Becoming Warren Buffett won't give viewers a crash course on how we, too, can become stock market experts. Although it depicts Buffett in action as CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, the documentary devotes an equal amount of time to Buffett the man — a person who still enjoys his daily visits to McDonald's and admittedly struggles with interpersonal relationships. The 86-year-old has three children and is on his second marriage, but who is Warren Buffett's wife?
Buffett has been married to Astrid Menks since 2006, but she's conspicuously absent from Becoming Warren Buffett. According to The New York Times, many family members were actively involved in the documentary, which includes interviews with Buffett's sisters, children, and his good friends Bill and Melinda Gates. The outlet also notes that Buffett's first wife, Susan, who passed away in 2004, is featured so prominently that she's "virtually a co-star." It's unclear why Menks declined to participate in the documentary, but Buffett requested that director Peter Kunhardt respect her wishes. According to the same New York Times article, Buffett was grateful that his late wife was so well-represented: “The part that I liked best is that they get to see Susie,” he said. “What happened with me would not have happened without her.”
However, Buffett's marriage to Susan was unconventional, to say the least. Although the pair never divorced, Buffett began a relationship with Menks in the late 1970s and they lived together for over four decades before tying the knot after Susan's death, as reported by The Guardian. But, the unique living arrangement seemed to work for all three parties — they even sent out Christmas cards signed "Warren, Susie and Astrid." The outlet also notes that Buffett met Menks at French Café, an upscale Omaha nightclub where Susan had recently taken a job as a singer. When Susan decided to move to San Francisco in 1977, she asked friends — including Menks — to look after her husband.
Menks, who was born in Latvia and cherished her friendship with Susan, keeps a low-profile in Omaha, according to The New York Times. The outlet reports that, like her husband, she places a strong value on frugality and is often spotted in thrift shops rather than luxury department stores and boutiques. For her part, Susan expressed nothing but gratitude for Menks' presence in she and her husband's lives. Shortly before her death, she told Charlie Rose: “She takes great care of him, and he appreciates it and I appreciate it. She’s a wonderful person.”
But, Buffett has admitted to harboring regrets about his relationship with Susan. In fact, he said in 2006 that "the biggest mistake I ever made" was giving up on his marriage when Susan told him she planned to leave, according to Business Insider. He also told his biographer, Alice Schroeder, that the dissolution of their relationship was his fault:
"[Susie's departure] was preventable. It was definitely 95% my fault... I just wasn't attuned enough to her, and she'd always been perfectly attuned to me. She kept me together for a lot of years... It shouldn't have happened."
Although they didn't live together, the unconventional couple traveled and attended events together — and Buffett was by Susan's side at the time of her death.
Susan was a progressive activist for civil rights and Becoming Warren Buffett will shed more light on Buffett's ambitious late wife — but there's very little information about Menks available, and her wish for privacy will be honored in the documentary.