It’s that time of year again, when tens of thousands of people make the pilgrimage to Omaha, Neb. for the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder’s meeting. This year, more than 35,000 people are expected from all over the world. I am one of them. This is my seventh year covering this weekend shindig.
Most investors don’t bother to attend the annual meetings of the companies they invest in. So why do Berkshire shareholders make the long trek every year to this small Midwestern town?
The big reason, of course, is to see Warren Buffett. For many it is a chance to learn from the super-successful legendary investor. Even multi-millionaire money managers come to hear the predictions and investing principles of the Oracle of Omaha. Mario Gabelli is one of them. He’s owned Berkshire stock for 25 years and he told me he comes to these meetings to make sure his investments–not only in Berkshire–are on track.
The main event of the weekend is on Saturday when Buffett and his sidekick, Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, answer shareholder questions for six hours. Yes, six hours. The two octogenarians (Buffett is now 82 and Munger is 89) sit on stage in the giant stadium of the Century Link Arena and answer every single question. There are hundreds of questions on everything from how the economy is doing to what Buffett likes to eat (a hamburger with a cherry Coke, in case you’re wondering). Their answers are serious, packed with data, funny and quotable.
The other reason people come is just to have a good time. This “Woodstock for Capitalists,” as Buffett calls it, is more like a party than a conference. There is a carnival atmosphere and Buffett makes sure there is plenty of fun and games. There’s the newspaper throwing contest, for example. Buffett started this competition a year ago after purchasing his hometown paper, The Omaha World Herald. I even got a lesson from Buffett himself on how to roll up a newspaper (he was a paper delivery boy as a kid, after all). But it was quite a show watching Buffett and buddy Bill Gates competing to see who could toss papers 35 feet to the doorstep of a model Clayton Home, a Berkshire subsidiary. Buffett won.
If you’re lucky, you will shake hands with Buffett as he mingles with shareholders before the meeting starts. You can often see Buffett singing and playing his ukelele. On Sunday, he will be hawking baubles and bracelets at Borsheims, the jewelry store Berkshire owns. Buffett said he won’t quit selling until he hits $2 million in sales (last year he racked up $1.5 million). Also on Sunday, there is a new activity–a 5K race with Berkshire directors and executives participating. Buffett isn’t running, but said he will man the starting gun.
And a lot of shareholders come for the shopping. There are huge discounts on for everything Berkshire makes from See’s candies and Justin Brand Boots to a NetJet private plane.
It’s unique. You won’t see this anywhere else in Corporate America. But you need to be a Berkshire shareholder to get in. It now costs $160,503 for a one share of Berkshire Class A stock.
I’ll interview Buffett on Saturday and I will be tweeting news from the meeting all weekend.
Tune into Nightly Business Report on Monday, May 6 to catch my interview with Warren Buffett.