Buffett: Post-bankrupt Detroit appealing to investors

Louis Aguilar; The Detroit News

Detroit — A wide-ranging chat by the billionaires Dan Gilbert and Warren Buffett was among the highlights of a three-day effort to woo about 160 successful former Detroiters to view the Motor City as a prime business opportunity.

Buffett, known as the Oracle of Omaha, said a post-bankrupt Detroit is much more appealing. Investing in the city now fits into his belief that great business opportunities can be found in situations where most investors are afraid to venture.

"It was important for Detroit to clear the slate," by declaring bankruptcy, Buffett said, as he and Gilbert sat on a stage at the College for Creative Studies Thursday afternoon. The CEO of Berkshire Hathaway participated in the Detroit Homecoming event.

"We would buy a company in Detroit," he said.

Buffett said back in the '70s he had small ownership of the Ambassador Bridge, the international bridge owned by the controversial Manual "Matty" Moroun. Buffett said he eventually dropped plans to buy the bridge after "too much delay" from the Canadian government.

Gilbert replied: "Too bad."

The list of invitees for the three-day event focused on the elite: billionaires, sports stars, company presidents, venture capitalists, journalists and entertainers. The agenda includes tours throughout the city; a concert at Chene Park; and the Globe Building Outdoor Adventure & Discovery Center, an unfinished facility on the city's rebounding riverfront. Other incentives include batting practice at Comerica Park as well as experiencing a driverless vehicle on Belle Isle.

Among Thursday's highlights:

■Detroit's Whole Foods is such a success that the upscale grocer is now wants to open a second store in Detroit, co-CEO Walter Robb said this morning. No details were given when and where such a store would open.

■Christopher Ilitch described the planned 45-block $650 million entertainment district is a transformative investment that would connect Midtown and downtown.

Mayor Mike Duggan implored invitees to help with the paucity of home mortgages obtained in Detroit. In 2012, only 550 mortgages were approved for Detroit. " The biggest single problem to restoring blight is we can't get mortgages."