Clogging up O’Hare, Charon to the Midwest, one puddle jumper at a time, over 25,000 people descended upon Omaha this weekend for Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting. Nicknamed the “Woodstock of Capitalism,” Warren Buffet did headline this year’s event with a little ukulele playing (although he didn’t light it on fire afterwards, or play with his teeth).
The meeting is a Berkshire Hathaway portfolio marketing bonanza, with swag galore from the Berkshire companies that do things besides sell insurance (49% of Berkshire Hathaway’s earnings before taxes come from insurance). This means you can get tighty-whities from a Fruit of the Loom booth but probably can’t go speed dating with the Geico cavemen.
Each year, Buffet sits down with his business partner Charlie Munger in a basketball gym and makes Bill Gates jealous during a slow dance fields questions from shareholders. The contentious issue this year - Berkshire Hathaway’s 1.3% stake in PetroChina, which does a lot of business in Sudan. An activist shareholder proposed a motion for the company to divest from PetroChina but shareholders are especially pro-genocide this year. Buffet did comment on the unfortunate circumstances in Sudan and the futility of telling the Chinese government what to do. Other social commentary included a Buffet rant on the “socially revolting” state-sponsored growth of casino gambling.
Like any good summer camp, status at a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting is determined not necessarily by the number of shares you own, but by seniority. From Jeff Matthews’ blog:
In fact, there is a pecking order to the entire affair that will persist all weekend, at each event: an individual’s status is determined by the length of time the person has been attending a Berkshire meeting.
Buffett headlines at Berkshire gathering – [BBC]
At Buffet's Diversified Berkshire Hathaway, Insurance Still #1 – [Insurance Journal]
Pilgrimage to Omaha, Part I: This is Big – [Jeff Matthews Is Not Making This Up]