OMAHA, Neb. — A reception attracted a crush of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. stockholders Friday evening to kick off “Warren’s weekend,” marking a rite of passage preceding the annual meeting here.
Held at Borsheims Fine Jewelry and Gifts, a local firm purchased years ago by billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire conglomerate, this reception drew shareholders in droves from around the corner, the country and the world; from the Cornhusker State to the Silver State, and beyond.
Some can claim both Nebraska and Nevada, with California sandwiched between, which is the case with current Northern Nevada resident Bill Glaser. He’s come with his wife a dozen times since 1998, but intends to miss no more in the future.
“Every year,” said Glaser, enjoying the convivial evening with his wife, Cheryl. “We love it.”
Bill and Cheryl got on Buffett’s bonanza-like wagon by buying stock more than 15 years ago.
Glaser, who grew up in Omaha, went west after becoming a civil engineer. He worked 20 years at the San Diego Airport before he and Cheryl moved to the region several years ago.
“I just love everything,” said Cheryl. “We’ve met such wonderful people.”
Both the residents of Douglas County in Nevada, visiting Bill’s home city in Douglas County, Nebraska, said they had a great day. Bill was interviewed by a local NBC television station news team when they stopped at a Dodge Street Dairy Queen, the same one they met Buffett at years ago.
In addition, the visited the Strategic Air & Space Museum at Ashland, Neb., which is half way between Omaha and Lincoln, the capital of Nebraska and site of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. That’s where Bill earned his civil engineering degree.
After the event at Borsheims, they were dining at an Omaha restaurant and headed to another to make connection with Bill’s brother, Robert, who plays there with a jazz band. They also spent time with Bill’s other brother, Mike while in Omaha.
Now the serious part of what some locals call Warren’s weekend but outsiders dub Woodstock for capitalists, begins in earnest. Today the bulk of the meeting involves question-and-answer sessions much of the morning and afternoon, but earnest doesn’t necessarily mean serious all the time. Buffett provides entertainment via hijinks, along with answers, and seems verbose in contrast to his terse vice chairman, Charlie Munger.
Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of the holding company whose A shares account for a market capitalization of more than $260 billion, occasionally pokes fun at Munger’s taciturn ways in joshing his elder sidekick. Munger is 89, Buffett 82.
Glaser’s routine includes getting to the center early, a practice that precluded late night revelry after the reception, enabling him along with group to get in on the fun and financial facts dished out by the billionaire pair.
A panel of journalists will fire questions from shareholders that panel members got in advance online, but neither Buffett nor Munger has seen, They will be interspersed with some people at microphones in the cavernous Century Link Center. The Q&A session continues after lunch until 3:45 p.m., when a business meeting of 15 minutes or so is scheduled.
That the business session shouldn’t take long, as per schedule, is shown by a quote Glaser picked up from the Berkshire leaders a few years ago as he took notes: “We have no group vice presidents, headquarters directives, HR department, PR department or law department in Omaha.”
The weekend continues Saturday evening with a Berkshire Big Time Cookout at Nebraska Furniture Mart, another Berkshire firm in Omaha; a Sunday morning 5K run called “Invest in Yourself” at 8 a.m., and a 9 a.m.-4 p.m. brunch/Borsheims shopping day for shareholders. Buffett says he’ll be wheeling and dealing that afternoon.
“Around 1 p.m. Sunday,” Buffett wrote in his message to shareholders, “I will begin clerking at Borsheims. Last year my sales totaled $1.5 billion.
“This year I won’t quit until I hit $2 million. Because I need to leave well before sundown, I will be desperate to do business. Come take advantage of me. Ask for my ‘Crazy Warren’ price.”