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The Warren Buffett Shareholder: Stories from inside the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting Paperback – April 20, 2018
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
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"Larry Cunningham and Stephanie Cuba have composed The Playbill to the greatest Business Show on Broadway--make that Omaha--namely, the Berkshire Hathaway annual meetings. Don't even think of attending without it."
--Roger Lowenstein, author of Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist
"Oh to be in Omaha come the first weekend of May! This smart and engaging book gives you 44 expert opinions as to why you simply need to get there."
--Carol Loomis, retired Senior Editor-at-Large, Fortune Magazine
"An amazing collaboration. We know of no other company whose shareholders have teamed up to write a book about the experience."
--Mario J. Gabelli, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, GAMCO Investors, Inc.
"A wonderful, readable book -- and great fun -- all about the greatest annual meeting in the world."
--Andrew Kilpatrick, Author, Of Permanent Value: The Story of Warren Buffett
From the Author
In creating this book, my wife and I got to work with 40+ of the most interesting investors, writers and managers in the world. The fun we had pulling this collection together will be matched by the fun readers have learning from their insights. Readers enjoy!
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There are more than 40 contributors to this volume. The information, opinions, and insights they provide will help those such as I who have never attended a Berkshire Annual Meeting (and/or related events) to understand and -- yes -- appreciate how much those several days in Omaha mean to attendees personally as well as professionally. Their reminiscences of Meetings past are especially enjoyable as well as informative. As with Buffett's Letters, many of the contributors emphasize what they (and I) view as important business lessons that are best revealed within the narrative, in context. One non-spoiler: Buffett, Munger, and the Berkshire shareholders place a MUCH greater value on character than they do on ROI. I hasten to add that, for decades, demanding the former has consistently maximized the latter.
As Larry and Stephanie note in their brief but substantial Preface, the contributors "take us with them through the numerous events of the days before and after the Meeting, from Thursday to Sunday, including book signings, talks, panels; summits, seminars, conferences; and receptions, dinners, and group outings."
Here are four brief excerpts that suggest the thrust and flavor of the narrative:
o "Why do so few investment firms educate and treat their clients [the way Berkshire does]? 'It's a joke, isn't?' answers Buffett, adding that fund managers and brokers 'don't judge their success by investment results. They judge it by how much they can gather in assets. So they don't want the shareholders to think of themselves as owners. They want them to think of themselves as customers.'" Jason Zweig, "You're Not Alone" (Pages 11-16)
o For many years, Jim Ross met Charlie Munger's plane from LA to Omaha. "One year while we were walking up the concourse, I noticed flecks of paint on the hands of Charlie's wife, Nancy. I asked if she painted. She said, 'We painted the master bathroom last night. Charlie didn't like the color.' I said, 'The night before the Annual Meeting, you're repainting the bathroom?' Charlie, who was walking swiftly ahead of us, called over his shoulder, 'Why hire it out, when you can do it yourself?'" Jim Ross, "Calling Charlie Minger" (71-76)
o "I invested and, like most investors, being careful to verify, I felt compelled to attend my first Annual Meeting. I was moved when an elderly lady took the microphone and said, 'Mr. Buffett, I only own one B share. May I ask a question?' Buffett answered, 'Ma'am, between you and me, we own half the company. What's your question?' I knew this was my kind lf manager, my kind of company, and that I was among my kind of shareholders." Robert P. Miles, "Accidental Impresario" (83-87)
o "The questions [asked at the Meeting] "are surprisingly substantive and insightful, whatever their source...As they answer questions, Warren and Charlie combine the postures of managing partners reporting to their audience about the things they need to know for financial success and to live a good life. While they address a great variety of questions with simple, example-filled explanations, they follow a basic rule of not conveying information that would destroy or diminish proprietary advantages Berkshire may possess." Robert E. Denham, "The Shareholders You Deserve" (171-174)
With an informality they prefer and one certainly appropriate to the Berkshire community, Larry and Stephanie are to be commended for brilliant editing of the original material they obtained, and then, the equally brilliant presentation of it within an eminently sensible framework.
They and countless others help to ensure that, in Warren Buffett's words, Berkshire's Annual Meeting is "designed with an eye to reinforcing the Berkshire culture, and making it one that will repel and expel managers of a different bent. The culture grows stronger every year, and it will remain intact long after Charlie and I have left the scene."
The reader gets an understanding of the weekend’s “whys” – why so many people attend, why it’s on a Saturday, why books are an important component, etc. The authors chose perfect contributors to provide the broadest set of experiences and insights, from fund managers, professors, authors, etc. Jim Ross’ story was one of my favorites because it highlights how startlingly normal and practical, for all his brilliance and wealth, Charlie Munger is.
One contributor, Jason Zweig (WSJ) wrote: “Investing can be exhilarating or terrifying.” The reminiscences here take the fear out of the equation because you begin to understand how Warren and Charlie’s philosophy for investing and for life has filtered down to their shareholders, and it’s inspiring to be a part of that sane, practical world-view.
The meeting and events last a few days, but the experience stays with the attendees throughout the year. Once you understand why they come, then you start to understand why it’s so valuable…both the event and the company. I highly recommend this book for anyone who has attended, who plans to attend, or who wants to experience the brilliance of it vicariously.
Yes, Warren is a big part of the story, but the stories go far beyond Warren (or Charlie for that matter). It's about building a community - a culture - of people who put stock in the idea that values and fundamentals can drive not only good investing and financial decisions, but good life decisions.
I particularly enjoyed stories by Jack Bogle, Joel Greenblatt, Chuck Akre, and Tom Russo, among many others and am confident most, if not all, readers will find a story that strongly resonates with them.