If we all had invested $1,000 in BRK.A back in 1964 – our investment today would be worth $10,500,000. Darn!
We’re in Omaha at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting – sometimes referred to as the Woodstock for Capitalists and even Buffettpalooza…
Now, before you all get excited we do not own any Class A shares, but rather a few “Baby B’s” – and it only takes 1 Class “A” or Class “B” share to get into this event. At the start of the conference BRK.B share price was $144.64 and BRK.A share price was $221,985…
While there were a couple of billionaires in attendance – namely Warren Buffett and Bill Gates – some 40,000 shareholders were there – from all corners of the globe. Word was that 3,000 attendees from China were in Omaha to listen to Mr. Buffett and Mr. Munger.
We had often talked about attending this event for a few years now and when we looked at the map heading east, combined with the calendar – and the weather – this WAS going to be the year to attend this 3-day extravaganza.
Heading east from Denver we drove 555 miles in 2 days and arrived at Tomes RV park in Council Bluffs, Iowa – just 7 miles from the venue.
FRIDAY, APRIL 30TH – SHAREHOLDER SHOPPING
Approximately 45 companies, owned by Berkshire Hathaway (BRK), had booths set up in the Exhibit Hall pitching their wares at discounted pricing and/or displaying their services.
See’s Candies, selling an array of fudge, peanut brittle (Warren’s favourite) and other candy, built a special “house” of 3,878 See’s fudge boxes. The company says that’s how many boxes Mr. Buffett would have to eat if he ate two ounces a day every day of his life so far.
BNSF Railway had a sophisticated model railroad on display, drawing the attention of dozens of kids who had tagged along with their shareholder parents for the weekend.
Shareholders didn’t hesitate to buy Dilly Bars that Dairy Queen was selling for $1. And, Pampered Chef and Fruit of the Loom had THE longest check-out lines.
Yes, there was lots of money in shareholder pockets to spend on product from the likes of –
FRIDAY, APRIL 30TH – COCKTAIL RECEPTION
…hosted by Borsheims – the jewellery company, owned by BRK. The venue was their store located in a mall. All the other stores in the mall were closed this Friday evening and the corridors were set up with bars and food tables to accommodate 40,000 guests who roamed this huge jewellery store, the mall and the large tent in the parking lot. There was entertainment in the big tent, shuttle buses and line-ups were huge and nearly impossible to manoeuvre.
SATURDAY, MAY 1ST – BRK BUSINESS!
Doors opened at 7 a.m., “Company” movie screened at 8:30 a.m. and the Q&A started at 9:30. Following a 60-minute lunch break at noon, the Q&A continued to 3:30 p.m.
We arrived just as the Company movie started and there wasn’t an empty seat in the arena. Standing room only for the 1 hour movie which was primarily an infomercial of all the BRK companies. At 9:30 out walked 85-year old Warren Buffett and 92-year old Charlie Munger.
Good morning. I am Warren Buffett.
He points to his left. Charlie Munger.
I am the young one… says Warren.
Mr. Buffett introduces his board of directors. OMG, Bill Gates is in the house!
The meeting began, people started leaving and seats became available!
Questions originated from a trio of financial journalists, a trio of analysts and from shareholders themselves (via a lottery). In previous years, all questions were generated from the shareholders and a few years ago Mr. Buffett added the financial journalists and analysts to the panels – probably to add some “meat” to the Q&A content.
Not to take away from the questioner, but the 1st question from the floor was: What would you have done differently in life in your search for happiness?
Mr Buffett responded in earnest, but the response basically came down to – nothing…
Q&A’s related to everything from insurance strategy; climate change; renewable energy; obesity and diabetes in the USA so, “Why buy Coca Cola”?; Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton?; longevity of rail travel; investing in cattle; and, of course, succession planning.
There were over 60 questions asked and Mr. Buffett usually took the lead in the responses and he was quite verbose.
Anything to add Charlie?
Between munches of peanut brittle and sips of Diet Coke, Mr. Munger would respond
…nothing further to add.
Occasionally, Mr. Munger gets a joke in.
I didn’t wise up as fast as I could have… Now that I’m 92, I still have a lot of ignorance left to work on.
SUNDAY, MAY 1ST
Yes, we signed up for this “Invest in Yourself” 5K run, jog, walk and had picked up our running kits and bib numbers. Now, this entire weekend had been very wet, cool and dismal. When the alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. we checked the temp and weather forecast. At 34 degrees and heavy rain forecasted in Omaha – during the entire 5K route – we wimped out…
Jacquie: Want to go?
Chuck: I’m following you…
Jacquie: I’m going back to bed!
Sadly, I hate that we didn’t participate. I really, really wanted to – if only conditions were perfect!
Usually closed on Sundays, there is always an exception for a private Warren Buffett shareholder event. Our reservation was for 2:00 p.m. Delicious corn-fed Nebraska beef came highly recommended and Chuck enjoyed his rib eye – but, hmmmm – I had salmon…
IMPROMPTU PHOTO OPP
Leaving the steakhouse we just started driving through town. Chuck loves to ‘get his bearings’ and this was no exception. Driving by the University of Omaha and down some residential side streets…
Jacquie: What are all those people looking at?
Chuck: Don’t know.
Jacquie: Wow, it’s Warren Buffett’s house! I saw it on the internet! He purchased it in 1958 for $31,500 and still lives there!
Mr. Buffett and Mr. Munger are quite the pair and seeing them in action evidences (and confirms) their intelligence, mutual respect, kindness and love for each other. Their business practices are likely old-fashioned [no budgets or power-points at Berkshire Hathaway], and they maintain an extremely lean staff of 25 persons who “can do it all”. And, they are very generous with their thanks and accolades to their staff.
Shareholders were excited and appeared down-to-earth. All ages were in attendance – children, youth, students, parents, grand-parents, retirees and young executives. We met people who, like us, were first time attendees and others that take their vacation every year at this time so they don’t miss this extravaganza. And, there was something for everyone!
We’re glad we experienced this. We may never do it again – but we will always remember Warren and Charlie… And, regret that we didn’t invest in 1964…