Reflections from the 2019 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting
The Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska is known as the Woodstock of capitalism. You know most of what Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger are going to say because their principles have not changed for decades, but it is uplifting anyway. That is the point and this year’s meeting was no exception.
Tens of thousands of people come from all over the world and start queuing at 3 am to get the best seats when the doors open at 7 am. The person next to you can be a retired teacher who has invested in Berkshire all their lives, a fund manager or the CEO of a major business.
Some of them come for the 20% discount on the many goods and services Berkshire provides. They are all on show at the with a cavernous exhibition space adjacent to the auditorium. You cannot walk off with a Burlington Northern train, but you can buy Brooks shoes, Fruit of the Loom shirts, sign up for NetJets or renew your Geico car insurance.
One of the most colourful groups this year was the ‘Millennium Mams’, a group of female investors from Kolkata and Bangalore, most of them running their own substantial businesses, dressed in saris and on their first visit to Omaha.
Others are value investors like us, who come to meet likeminded investors from all over the world and participate in the many investment conferences and side-line discussions. The Stern family has been invested in Berkshire since the IPO in 1973 and it is the only ‘industry convention’ I attend.
All of them come to hear the highlight of the weekend, the annual meeting itself when Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger sit on a stage and answer any question thrown at them.
It borders on miraculous quite how Warren and Charlie can spend six hours (with a short break for lunch) answering questions and they are still going strong.
As much as we like the companies, it is hard to imagine the CEOs of Nestle, Diageo or United Technologies spending so much time talking to their shareholders about their company and their approach to business and life.
But the big news in Omaha this year was that Berkshire has finally bought Amazon.
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