If you have ever attended the annual shareholder meeting of a publicly held company, you know they can be pretty boring. I once attended my employer’s annual meeting (I was also a shareholder). It was held in one of the company meeting rooms. There were about 10 ‘suits’ there and maybe 5 other shareholders. It was kind of interesting for me, because I got to see and hear from the executives in my own company (aka the big bosses), but the subject matter was p-r-e-t-t-y dry.
The Berkshire-Hataway annual meeting however, is a different story. It is described as the Woodstock for Capitalists!
This year, during a market dip, I bought some Berkshire-Hathaway stock. Don’t be too jealous though, I didn’t spring for the A shares (which as of this morning are selling for $193,296 PER SHARE). Nope, I went for the B shares, which I got for $112 per share that day. As a result, Warren is inviting me to his shareholder carnival. Well, maybe it isn’t a personal invitation, but I’m going anyway.
Anyone who is an owner of record in March will get a copy of the annual meeting proxy and a card that can be sent in to get passes to the meeting. The limit per shareholder is 4 passes.
The meeting is held in downtown Omaha, which is only a couple of hours drive from my home here in the Midwest. I sent in my card and got my 4 passes, we are going! I invited my two adult sons to go as well and they thought it would be pretty neat to actually see Mr. Buffett.
The meeting is just one of many events that the company lines up for their capitalists Woodstock. There are discounts at the Omaha locations of multiple of the companies in which Berkshire has an interest – such as Nebraska Furniture Mart and Borsheims Jewelry and Sees candy. There is an exhibit hall with vendors from most of the other companies and the townsfolk get into the act with their own sales and events – it’s Omaha’s biggest shopping weekend!
This year there will be a 5K run, a cocktail reception, a picnic at Nebraska Furniture Mart, a Netjets aircraft display, a competition with Warren – newspaper throwing and a chance to buy diamonds from the big man himself.
The big event on Saturday is the meeting, starting with a movie at 8:30am and continuing with hours of QA with Warren and Charlie Munger. The official annual shareholder meeting lasts just 1/2 hour though. The visitor’s guide is online on the Berkshire-Hathaway company site if you want the full scoop.
I’ve heard that people start lining up at 4 am to get into the convention all when the doors open so they can be in the same room with the big guys during the QA period. We probably won’t be doing that. There is supposed to be an overflow room if you can’t get into the main hall, but I hear that if you wait a couple of hours, you can slide into the main hall even if you don’t stand in line through the wee morning hours to get in.
We will only be attending the Saturday meeting and anything else we can squeeze in Friday night or Saturday after the meeting.
If you love crowds you will be in your element. In 2013 there were around 35,000 people there! I started looking for hotel rooms in February and most of the downtown ones (the ones in walking distance to the convention center) were already booked! We will be staying further out, where there was room and the rates were cheaper. Hopefully we will find parking in the downtown area, my Omaha friends assure me that there is ample parking, even during the meeting – but there are shuttles available as well.
How can you go to the Berkshire-Hathaway meeting?
So, now you are pumped to go – and I said you could, but not until next year now. The meeting is typically the first weekend in May – as it is this year. Even if you aren’t a shareholder, even if you don’t know anyone who is and will invite you along, you may be able to go.
Although the meeting is supposed to be for shareholders only, the only thing you need to get into the meeting are the passes that are sent to shareholders when they request them. Mine arrived about mid-April. Just for fun, a few days ago, I did a search on eBay to see if any were for sale, and yes, sure enough – you could have bought a pass to this year’s 2014 meeting for just a few dollars (from $5 on up) and I’m pretty sure it will be the same next year. After all, why wouldn’t the Berkshire folks want lots of attendees – and shoppers?
I’ll be posting on Family Money Values after we attend, to let you know what it was like!
Have you attended a shareholder meeting?