The Warren Buffett ShareholderBrenda Jubin
I have often marveled at the number of books written about all things Buffett and Berkshire. Reading “The Warren Buffett Shareholder: Stories from Inside the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting (Harriman House, 2018), I learned one reason for this profusion: they sell. In 2005 The Bookworm, an Omaha bookstore that is the only non-Berkshire affiliated booth at the annual meetings, sold 3,500 copies, or 8.5 tons!, of Poor Charlie’s Almanack: . The bookstore at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield, which offers books that Buffett and Munger recommend at each annual meeting, on at least one occasion needed the police to control the crowd. And book signings regularly take place during these meetings in an Omaha Dairy Queen. This is, I guess, what happens when Warren Buffett says, in response to a question about what a young person should do to become a great investor, “Read everything you can.” And when he claims to have read every book in the Omaha Public Library with the word finance in the title by the age of ten, some twice.
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The latest addition to the Buffett/Berkshire corpus is a collection of 40 reminiscences about Berkshire annual meetings. One theme running throughout is the people who attend, the relationships that are formed and cemented, the “faith” that is deepened. Yes, attendees hear Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger answer questions, but many of the shareholders are familiar with what they’re likely to say. After all, Berkshire has made only small tweaks to its investing principles over the years. Moreover, they could sit at home and watch streaming video of the meeting. The draw is not so much the words as the ethos and the people. Attendees describe the experience in religious terms as a pilgrimage or a revival meeting, in mundane terms as an oil change (admittedly, for the soul).
Berkshire has a relationship with its shareholders that no other company does. And thus its shareholder meetings are unique. The Warren Buffett Shareholder demonstrates just why that is and why people keep going back, year after year. It’s hard not to feel better having read it.