Lombard: Buffett for Gryffindor! Can the sage capture Potter’s magic? | FT Alphaville

Lombard: Buffett for Gryffindor! Can the sage capture Potter’s magic?

Is Warren Buffett the next Harry Potter? The legendary investor-philanthropist’s name was invoked yesterday by Nigel Newton, chairman of the British publisher Bloomsbury. The group’s performance over the past decade has been periodically supercharged by sales of the boy-wizard’s adventures. Amid suspense over whether author J.K. Rowling will kill Harry off in the soon-to-be-published seventh and final volume, the search is on for ways to keep the magic going.

Mr Newton yesterday cited his company’s ownership of the UK and British Commonwealth rights to Alice Schroeder’s forthcoming book about the American investor as one potential bestseller for next year.

The billionaire’s philosophy of life and investment is big business. Even a recent regurgitation of his sayings, The Tao of Warren Buffett, rose into the top 10 of business bestsellers in the US, and another slim volume of his writings is still in Amazon.com’s top 500, although it was published more than six years ago.

Ms Schroeder’s The Snowball, due out next year, should be the definitive Buffett tome, given how closely she has worked with the investor on the book.

But Bloomsbury, keeper of the keys to the Harry Potter series, will probably get a lesser share of the potential Buffett bonanza than Bantam Dell (part of Random House, in turn part of Bertelsmann), which struck the deal for US rights in 2005. Bantam reportedly paid a $7m advance for the book and publishing sceptics doubted at the time that it would earn much of a return on its investment.

One parallel between Mr Buffett, 76, and Master Potter, 17, could serve as a morbid marketing peg: in each case, fans are obsessed with their hero’s mortality. But having paid “a significant sum” for most of the rights outside the US, Bloomsbury’s Mr Newton will have to work hard to sell the book to non-American readers, who are generally less familiar with the sage of Omaha.