BRK Meeting: En Route

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Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting kicks off today and, as luck would have it, one of the 27,000 (tiny) fractional owners of the company is a DealBreaker reader. Curtis Walker will be liveblogging the jamboree, which, in year’s past, has included Warren Buffett losing to an 11 year old at ping pong, and teaching a tantric sex class. So don’t be assholes—he’s one of you!
Thursday Night: I'm en route to Omaha on my annual pilgrimage to Warren Buffet's investment bootcamp, otherwise known as the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder's meeting. Despite holding stock in the company for most of my life, it wasn't until 2004 that I decided to show up to the meeting. Apart from the shares, I really don't have a whole lot of discretionary income and so, befitting the folksy feel of the occasion, I convinced my mom to help me out in the realization of the trip by driving me to Omaha in her Minnie Winnie. (By "befitting" I mean the Minnie Winnie, not my mom. Ok, let's just forget that part, ok?). See, rather than booking a flight on Berkshire's NetJets, I fly to Springfield, MO on Allegiant Air. This airline is so concerned with margins, they actually charge a checked baggage fee of $10 per bag. Interestingly, Allegiant doesn't take American Express, so I couldn't even use a BRK company to pay for my tickets. I did, however, shave with my Gillette Mach 3, so it's not an entirely Berkshire free day.
The master plan is this: I fly to MO, meet up with my mom, drive to Omaha, hit the opening party at Borsheims and then sleep in the parking lot and let the morning's arrival of folks with legitimate accommodations rouse us.
Last year's meeting was marked by protest from people ranging from Darfur rights groups protesting the company's stake in PetroChina, a pro-life guy angry about Warren Buffet's personal charitable donations
to Planned Parenthood and a Native American group concerned with MidAmerican energy's move to put a new dam on an Oregon river. Nobody mentioned the fact that Berkshire managed to bust the 6-figure stock price cherry. This year, the stock climbed to an all time high of just over $150k. Security is present at the function but not oppressive. After last year's protests and the completely unrelated shooting at the Westroads Mall in December, I wouldn't be surprised to see things ramped up a little this year.
Warren Buffet's Annual Letter to Stockholders is an amusing and insightful look at the company exemplified through the inclusion of this quote from John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo: "It is interesting that the (mortgage lending) industry has invented new ways to lose money when the old ways seemed to work just fine." In regards to last year's quest for a potential successor to Berkshire's investment job, Warren says, "I've reluctantly discarded the notion of my continuing to manage the portfolio after my death – abandoning my hope to give new meaning to the term 'thinking outside the box.'" In addition to this, his positions on the Brazillian Real, and Berkshire's newest acquisition, Marmon are revealed. This latest addition will push the total employees under the umbrella of the BRK banner to right around 250,000, with a mere 19 in the corporate office. (This number only represents BRK operating companies and doesn't count employees of companies BRK is invested in, such as Amex, Coke, Anheuser-Busch, Wal-Mart and so forth.)
-- Curtis Walker is a writer based in Las Vegas, NV.

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Former Berkshire Hathaway Executive Has Only The Nicest Things To Say About Warren Buffett

On March 30, 2011, Warren Buffett penned an open letter expressing support for his former lieutenant, David Sokol, whose trading activities had been called into question. "Neither Dave nor I feel his Lubrizol purchases were in any way unlawful," Buffett wrote. Then, a month later, he told shareholders and reporters gathered at the BKR annual meeting in Omaha that, actually, Sokol was a degenerate bum; a piece of garbage that needed to be taken out, lest it stink up the place. (Actual words: "inexcusable," "inexplicable," in violation of "the company's insider-trading rules and code of ethics." Buffett added that Berkshire "had turned over some very damning evidence" re: Sokol to the Securities and Exchange Commission, to boot.) Though Sokol did not publicly respond to the comments at the time, they presumably stung quite a bit, since having your unassailable ex-boss basically call you a lowlife does not do wonders for the reputation. Now, a year later, after being informed that the SEC would not be taking action against him, is he in a Zen place about life in general and Buffett's words specifically? Are the two men cool? Could Sokol see them being friends again one day? At the very least, is he ready to laugh about them? Yes, yes he is.