NEW YORK (Reuters) - Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said on Tuesday that media reports that he and Italian real estate agent Alessandro Proto together purchased the island of St. Thomas, southwest of Athens, are "a total fabrication."
"Until the reports started coming out I had never heard of the guy (Proto) who is making the claims about the Greek Island," Buffett said in a statement emailed by a spokeswoman.
The newspaper Proto Thema reported the sale on Saturday and various news agencies repeated it, including the Athens-Macedonian News Agency and a Newsweek website.
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In an emailed reply to Reuters, Proto's company, Proto Enterprises, said Proto's statement was misconstrued. Proto Enterprises is not affiliated with Proto Thema, which means First Issue in Greek.
"Mr. Proto never said that Warren Buffet has bought an island in Greece. He said there was interest in offering an island to Mr. Buffett," Federica Sala, Proto's manager assistant, said in the email. "And if the media report the news in a different way, (it) is not our responsibility," Sala said.
Sala said Proto was hoping to capitalize on the coverage to "get directly to Mr. Buffett."
And then it concluded with a rephrasing of a famous quote Buffett often uses: "you only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out."
Sala wrote: "It's only when the tide goes down you see who is dressed. And in this particular case Mr. Proto is dressed and will sell an island in Greece to Mr. Buffet sooner or later."
(Reporting By Jennifer Ablan; additional reporting from Stephen Jewkes in Milan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Christian Plumb)