Finance Places

A trip to the Woodstock of capitalists. Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. Omaha. US.

MySlowTrip - USA - Omaha Berkshire Hathaway Warren Buffett

Every year at the beginning of May, there is a very special event for investors in Omaha, Nebraska, US. The Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders meeting with legendary investors Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, both in their 90s, is called the “Woodstock for Capitalists”. As a stockmarket nerd for nearly 40 years I have made my dream come true and made the pilgrimage there.

I took Warren’s advice to save costs, flew to Kansas City and drove 200 miles through the backroads of the endless planes of the American Mid-West, passing through typical rural smalltown America with places that could serve as backdrops for Western movies.

Once in Omaha my first destination was to see Buffett’s private home. It is a totally unpretentious one storey single family house, surrounded by a small garden (certainly by Nebraskan standards), that Buffett bought in the late 1950s for alledgedly 35.000 $, in which he has lived ever since. Quite remarkable for a man who is one of the richest billionaires on this planet. Buffett’s house has become a landmark in Omaha, with curious people coming from all over the world on the Shareholder’s Meeting weekend.

Then came the big day: Saturday, May 4, 2019. The alarm went off at 4:10am, I wanted to get a good seat in the main arena. The two hours wait in the queue at the Convention Centre went by very fast with interesting conversations with like minded stockmarket nerds from around the world. At 7am sharp doors open and we run to get a good seat. The arena, which holds 18.000 people, gets filled up very fast.

Then the show starts. I am overwhelmed. As in intro we watch on gigantic video walls the best advertising clips from Berkshire’s companies: Coca-Cola, Duracell, Kraft Heinz, and many others. All of a sudden the two titans of investing appear like rock stars on stage in bright blue light. The crowd cheers like mad. It has the feel indeed of a rock concert or a big sports event.

For more than five hours these two elderly gentlemen report various details about Berkshire’s wide span of business segments in a sharp manner. They also answer personal questions such as “what goals do You still have in life” with wit and humor (Munger’s answer to that one: “I would like to have a bit more of it”). Strictly no photos allowed during the session.

Right next to the main arena is a big trade fair at the convention center with only Berkshire companies: Borsheim’s Fine Jewelry, Duracell, GEICO Insurance, NetJets private jets, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and about 30 more others. It is all about three things: business, business, and business. That is what I like about the American attitude: they literally mind their own business.

Along the way one makes memorable encounters.

Warren himself was not quite unexpectedly only available for a photo shoot in his alter ego cardboard form.

Other make funny and bold statements about investing in anything else but stocks.

Bog Hagstrom, himself investment legend and bestselling author, wrote one of my all-time favorite books on Investing: “Investing, the last liberal art”.

Warren and Charlie fans: like father like son. They made it on the front page of the Omaha Herald the next day.

Finally, not to forget that Omaha and Nebraska have some of the best steaks in the world. What a glorious and delicious grand finale of an unforgettable trip.

The key message I took home from this trip: Americans are big optimists regarding their economy and stockmarket, no matter what.