Warren Buffett is known as the Oracle of Omaha, and investors gather to hear his wisdom at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder's Meeting. In the early 1960s, he took control of Berkshire, which was then a failing textile company. Under Buffett's leadership, Berkshire has grown into one of the world's largest conglomerates. As a result, Buffett and other longtime shareholders became extremely wealthy.

 Berkshire Hathaway has in some ways set the benchmark standard for lavish shareholder meetings against which all others are judged. The daylong, carnival-like atmosphere features comedy skits, disco balls, music, celebrities like Bill Gates, and even dancing characters from the various companies in the portfolio including the GEICO gecko. Live online coverage of the proceedings provides real-time updates for those individuals who are interested in the event but unable to attend. Note that attendees who wish to join the party and hear the Oracle of Omaha speak are required to hold the company's Class A shares, which have recently traded for around $275,000 each. The more affordable B-shares trade at just $182.5 each, but those don't come with any voting rights. B-share holders can still obtain up to 4 guest passes, which are often then sold on the secondary ticket market.

Key Takeaways

  • Berkshire Hathaway is the holding company run by billionaire investor Warren Buffet, which includes stakes in business such as GEICO and Fruit of the Loom.
  • Berkshire's annual shareholder meetings are lavish spectacles, featuring a keynote speech by Mr. Buffet himself.
  • To attend a shareholder meeting, you'll need to own one or more of the company's pricey Class A shares.
  • B-share holders and non-shareholders can still buy guest passes to attend.

The Lure of Berkshire

Buffett’s record of creating shareholder value also made Berkshire Hathaway’s annual general meeting an anticipated event in the world of finance. Retail investors typically choose not to attend annual meetings. However, this is not the case for Berkshire. For many years, about 40,000 Berkshire shareholders from around the planet have traveled to Omaha, Nebraska. The event has become known as "Woodstock for Capitalists" in the financial press.

Shareholder meetings are generally administrative sessions that follow a specific format set forth well in advance of the meeting. The format dictates parliamentary procedure, the amount of time allocated for each speaker and procedures for shareholders who wish to make statements. A corporate secretary, attorney, or other official often presides over the process. Even for a big, popular firm like Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, the business portion of the agenda takes only about 20 minutes. The election of directors and votes on shareholder proposals are handled in a largely scripted manner. At the conclusion of the meeting, the minutes are formally recorded

Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting provides a way to learn from the world’s most respected investor, Warren Buffett. The gathering is also an excellent opportunity to network with other shareholders of the company. Here is a guide for anyone who is considering attending the upcoming Berkshire shareholder’s meeting.

Who Can Attend?

For the most part, and as the name implies, Berkshire’s annual shareholder meeting is for the company’s shareholders. The primary purpose of the gathering is to give shareholders an overview of Berkshire’s performance during the last year. It also gives everyone a chance to learn the company's plans for going forward. Both investors and the media can pose important questions about the company to the management team. At the 2019 meeting, Buffett and Charlie Munger answered questions for almost six hours.

Being a shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway is not a requirement to attend the shareholder meeting. To participate, attendees will need to have a meeting pass. Holders of both classes of Berkshire Hathaway stock (BRK.A and BRK.B) can request up to four passes.


Warren Buffett's Probability Analysis Advantage

What If I Am Not a Shareholder?

People who are not Berkshire shareholders can buy a pass from a shareholder. eBay (EBAY) is one popular marketplace where Berkshire meeting passes can be found a few weeks before the event. They typically go for between $10 to $25 each.

Note that these passes are required to go to all shareholder events taking place throughout the week of the meeting. Passes also give you discounts on items sold by Berkshire subsidiaries during the week.

Passes are required to go to all shareholder events taking place during the week of the meeting.

Planning Ahead

With tens of thousands attending, it is critical to plan your trip to Omaha many months in advance. As Warren Buffett once said, “Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” When you consider the costs of lodging, airfare, and dining, attending the meeting can get expensive. That is especially true if you wish to take advantage of the sales offered by Berkshire subsidiaries. Justin Boots, Dairy Queen, and See's Candies set up shop at the main meeting and other shareholder events.

As an example, in Berkshire's 2012 annual report, Buffett shared some of the sales statistics for that year's meeting. He said, "Last year, you [shareholders] did your part, and most locations racked up record sales. In a nine-hour period, we sold 1,090 pairs of Justin boots, (that's a pair every 30 seconds), 10,010 pounds of See's candy, 12,879 Quikut knives (24 knives per minute) and 5,784 pairs of Wells Lamont gloves, always a hot item. But you can do better. Remember: Anyone who says money can't buy happiness simply hasn't shopped at our meeting."

The Bottom Line

Warren Buffett sure draws a big crowd for someone without a guitar. His company's annual general meeting is one of the most attended events in the business world. The point of the gathering is to update shareholders on the company's recent performance. However, being a shareholder is not a requirement for admission. All that one needs for entry is a meeting pass. The meeting brings tens of thousands of visitors to Omaha. That makes it almost impossible to secure a flight and a place to stay at the last minute. Potential attendees should plan and budget for the meeting months in advance.