One after another, Japanese executives from some of the country’s most elite firms filed into Warren Buffett’s suite at the luxury Four Seasons Hotel in central Tokyo.

The legendary investor was on a trip to the Japanese capital last month, and the titans of the country’s giant energy and raw-materials conglomerates were there to make their pitches. Over glasses of Coca-Cola, one of Buffett’s most famous investments, they separately told the 92-year-old American the same thing: Japan’s trading houses, as they’re known, must accelerate their move beyond commodities, and they wanted one of their biggest shareholders to help.

Buffett, who’s sitting on billions of dollars in gains after buying stakes in the companies in 2020 and later increasing them, listened intently and asked many questions, according to people with knowledge of the talks. He wanted to know more about their businesses, their views on the economy and geopolitical situation and what’s next for these groups with roots dating back hundreds of years. He was eager to find ways to work with them, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private information.