Inside the BRK Opening Reception

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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!
Made it to Omaha and got the choice parking spot in our new home, the parking lot. After a few moments of refreshment, we headed over to the Hilton to mooch a ride with some rich folks. Look, taking a cab is a foreign thing to me, and apart from this trip, I probably won't ride in a cab all year. Saving a couple bucks is a matter of principle. Call me a cheapskate or call me an environmentalist, either way I'm saving green. Anyway, we meet a nice guy named Barry who's in the business of insuring cabs. How's that for coincidence? Anyway, we shove 5 of our shareholder asses into the cab, which only has 4 seats, so the cabbie throws a fit and tries to dump me off onto another cab. Unfortunately, there isn't one, so he begrudgingly takes us the 94 blocks or so to Borshiems. Barry picks up the tab and balks at my offer to split it. See, he' living the high life, but I believe in fairness. In any case, everyone comes out on top and we're all happy campers.
At the party, I notice (as usual) that there's a ton of fancy, cute girls around, but more on them later. First up is the free hooch. See, that's one of the best things about this party, in addition to getting good deals on jewelry, there's free grub and an open bar. I start the night off with a Gin and Tonic and climb into the ridiculously long food line. 45 minutes later, I'm happily buzzed and well acquainted with the townies from Con Agra. After eating the deliciously priced food, I find that my buzz has faded and set out to get some work done. Enter the pretty girls. I find a gaggle of them crouched around the entrance to the store and ask if any of them are shareholders. Register my shock that not a single one was. In years past, I'd always assumed they were well-to-do trust-funders out to rub elbows. It would be unfair to call them gold-diggers, but I'm from Vegas, so that's kinda how my brain works. Gin helps, ask our mayor. I proceed to hit up any number of other young ladies only to find that there's not a shareholder in the crowd. It seems that the eager young people are there to learn and the wise old farts are there to gloat.
One group of young investors from North Dakota University, came down to the convention at the last moment. Amy Indridason, their VP of IT told me that they came to look, listen, ask and learn. Their company, Dakota Venture Group is more interested in investing in startups than stocks, they're still humble enough to want to learn from a guy who's made billions off companies that are pushing 150 years old. There are usually quite a few college groups that come to the meeting and they're usually full of really good questions too.
Everyone I spoke to holds Warren Buffett in the highest of regards, but also thinks that what he's done is unique and unrepeatable. Mr. Buffett feels the same way. Most of them don't intend on getting and BRK Class B shares, but they want to hear what nuggets of wisdom the Oracle of Omaha has for us. Nearly everyone I spoke to was a first-timer. Many were also locals. Paul Land of Omaha is an example. He bought some stock when the B shares came out and hasn't looked back. He wanted to add some diversity to his portfolio and bought as many shares as he could afford, which seems to be the tactic a lot of people use. He used the word 'impervious' to describe the company's ability to keep their head out of the noose while many others are trying to keep their tippie toes on the stool.
--Curtis Walker is a writer based in Las Vegas, NV.
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