Warren Buffett is not a rock star of the investment world; he is THE rock star of the investment world – a financial Elvis Presley. It’s no wonder that people refer to the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting as the “Woodstock of Capitalism”. While there were all the usual cocktail receptions, dinners and exhibitors and suggestions for interesting side trips for anyone who was interested, this meeting was, of course primarily about business. Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting -The Business At this year’s meeting, even with Berkshire Hathaway’s market value down about 30 percent, attendance was higher than ever with about 25,000 – 30,000 people showing out of roughly 100,000 shareholder credentials issued.
As expected, most of the talk at this year’s meeting was centered on how to maximize return during an economic downturn, and the effect of the pending Wall Street reform legislation. Some take-aways from Buffett’s always popular question and answer session with long-time business partner Charlie Munger: * Purchase of the Philadelphia Enquirer – Buffett said he is still considering buying the struggling paper. * Succession – This topic has come up year after year, and although Buffett has declined to name a chosen successor, he has mentioned that four investment managers are currently in the running, though he did not go so far as to name names.
* Position on derivatives – Buffett does not see serious impact from the Wall Street reform bill to Berkshire Hathaway’s derivatives position. In any event, derivatives are not a huge chunk of Berkshire Hathaway’s business anyway, currently carrying only about 250 contracts. * Inflation – Munger says to bet on it, perhaps that it will be even higher than experts are currently predicting. * Taxes – Buffett reaffirmed his position that taxes should be higher on the rich, but he tempered that comment by saying that money spent by the government on helping the poor would be better handled by charities. Buffett has revealed in the past that a large part of his estate will be willed to charity organizations. It was a marathon six hour session with Buffett and Muger showing great energy and enthusiasm.
The fact that the economy is in the midst of a malaise not seen since the Great Depression did not seem to dampen their fervor; although it is well known that Buffett’s greatest accomplishments have come during times of economic hardship. His overall philosophy remains consistent, be honest and ethical, be logical and do what you love doing. Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting - The Pleasure No Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting would be complete without some fun.
All work and no play makes for a dull meeting indeed. Omaha is surprisingly well positioned to be a tourist destination with restaurants, galleries and museums as well as a thriving performance arts scene. On the official events schedule, Friday featured a grand cocktail reception at Borsheim’s, a swanky 62,000 square foot jewelry retailer owned by Berkshire Hathaway.
After the meeting ended at 4:00 Saturday, there was the “Berkyville” picnic at the Nebraska Furniture Mart, and finally there was the traditional Sunday brunch and shopping, again at Borsheims. Also going on in Omaha that weekend, was a performance by Warren Buffett’s son Peter, a musician and philanthropist, at the Witherspoon Concert Hall at Joslyn Art Museum. Buffett combines his music with an authentic, inspirational, and impactful message in the form of a multi-media presentation.
An artist’s reception for Wendy Jane Bantam took place at the Dundee Gallery also on Friday. Friday and Saturday, the Holland Performing Arts Center featured a Tribute to Motown by the Omaha Symphony Orchestra. Those who stayed through to Monday and were baseball fans had the opportunity to see the Omaha Royals play the Oklahoma Redhawks in Triple-A action. This is the final season for the Royals in historic Rosenblatt Stadium – Home of the College World Series – which will be torn down in favor of a new ballpark downtown. If anyone has plans to attend the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting in 2011, it will be held on Saturday, April 30, 2011 at the Quest Center in Omaha, Nebraska. Of course, as always, admission is limited to credentialed individuals only.