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Jefferies: 'Mini' Berkshire or 'Bizarro' Buffett?

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A look at Leucadia National's earnings and even the terms of Monday's deal signal that while the company is diverse and has grown at a Buffett-like clip, it is no Baby Berkshire Hathaway.

Unlike Berkshire, Leucadia National wasn't able to weather the financial crisis without posting an annual loss. Meanwhile, the company's shares are roughly half what they were prior to the crisis, while Berkshire shares have gained back most of the ground they lost since 2008.

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In fact, a key piece of Monday's acquisition of Jefferies' remaining shares -- Leucadia already owned 28.6% of the company's stock prior to Monday -- is a multi-billion dollar net operating loss carry forward that is capitalized on Leucadia's balance sheet as a result of crisis time losses.

The New York Times highlights that Monday's deal is a deviation from Leucadia's course of being a "Baby Berkshire Hathaway" because Buffett has been reluctant to take direct ownership or even the common stock of investment banks after a failed foray into the business by way of a late 1980s rescue of bond trading pioneer Solomon Brothers.

The more pressing question for investors and Jefferies employees is whether Handler is ready for comparisons to Buffett.

If managing an investment bank is hard enough, how will Handler maintain his strong stewardship of Jefferies -- the firm survived the financial crisis without a bailout -- while also managing Leucadia's disparate set of operations?

To Handler's credit, Jefferies' partnership with Leucadia culminates in a remarkable turnaround for the investment bank from where it stood at this time last year. In the wake of late October 2011 collapse of brokerage MF Global (FRA:E37) as the debt crisis in Europe escalated, some investors and independent rating agencies were all but ready to write Jefferies off.

Meanwhile, under Handler's leadership, the bank has been one of the fastest growing businesses on Wall Street through the crisis. Bloomberg reports that Jefferies has boosted headcount by over 60% in recent years, as it grows operations to resemble the likes of Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and Morgan Stanley.

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