My Pilgrimage to Warren Buffett's Omaha
G'day from Omaha, Nebraska!
My mate Warren says Hi! - As you can see, I dressed for the occasion!
Below is a summary of my recent trip to Omaha, Nebraska, where I attended the Berkshire Hathaway annual general meeting. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Thursday: Value Investing Dinner with David Poppe, Sequoia CEO & Portfolio Manager
David Poppe stepped up on stage and quite bluntly admitted his edge is more with numbers than public speaking. But he was quite good. I was lucky enough to have a brief but insightful conversation with him after his talk (right), as well as with Tom Russo (left), who for those uninitiated, is another well respected value fund manager. Tom's average holding position is 20 years!
Friday - Century Link Shopping, Value Conference, BRK'ers Party & TiP Dinner
It got a little chaotic from here onwards. Berkshire shareholders, myself included, packed Century Link and bought a heap of stuff they probably didn't need (although I exclude books from that list). Charlie and Warren t-shirts, rubber ducks, PJ's, boxes, Coke cans with Buffett's face on them.
I tried to cover the whole floor but it was virtually impossible to do so in 3 hours. The doors opened at noon but the Value Investing Conference: From Graham to Buffett and Beyond, was starting at 3pm. Robert Cialdini is a gentleman (on the right). I had his fantastic book at home but considering I could get a personalised signed copy, I just had to buy another one. He will be coming to Australia later in the year. If you don't know the story, Charlie Munger read his book and loved it. So much so, he sent Robert a Class A Berkshire Hathaway share worth $US86,000 at the time. It was Charlie's way of saying thank you. (Berkshire now trades approximately at $US250,000 a share) I also had to take pic with Liz - Fox Business (left) and Becky - CNBC (middle), as I watch their show a fair bit.
I was lucky enough to meet and have an extensive conversation with Swiss based fund manager, Guy Spier. He is the author of The Education of a Value Investor, one of my favourite books that I reviewed for you a little while ago. I sat in on the conference and then had to head off to the BRK'ers party which led to me meeting some great people, in particular two gentlemen from New York. They were also part of The Investors Podcast community, Jason and Eugene. We just hit it off. I learnt a heap from Eugene who, along with being an accountant and consultant, is also running an e-commerce pet supply business and using Amazon for inventory and distribution.
I learnt more about how Amazon assists these types of businesses in 10 minutes than I had in the past year reading about it. I'll provide some background on the BRK'ers party in my PDF. The chap wearing the yellow hat has been a shareholder of Berkshire since 1988 (insert cash emoji here). That evening, I headed off to The Investors Podcast dinner. A fantastic evening. Met some fantastic people. It was an early night though because my day was to going to start at 3am the next morning.
Saturday - AGM Day
The Uber driver who I pre-booked called me at 3:40am. She was early and waiting outside. I had the CEO of the Household and the kids FaceTime me at 3am. I was ready! I started lining up at 4am and was roughly 100th in line. It was a 3 hour wait until the doors opened, but quite honestly, it felt my 3 minutes. I had fantastic company. Jason, the chap I met the day earlier, was next to me. An engineer named Samson, currently based in Dubai but originally from Brisbane, was sharing his stories (he was attending for the second time), and on the other side was a father and son from Vancouver. Max, was 12 years old and woke his Dad up early to be up the front. How great is that!
The doors opened and it was mayhem. Apart from a few issues I found a great seat and headed down to watch the paper toss at the Clayton Homes exhibition. I don't know how Warren does it! At any point in time, there was 30 people surrounding him. The company movie was fantastic! The actors do not get paid, Warren is a good negotiator, and as a result, we weren't allowed to take footage. In this day and age, I was astounded how everyone adhered to his request. The movie featured Charlie Munger being a gangster, a Terminator, as well as Warren Buffett buying See's Candy Peanut Brittle from the Breaking Bad crew like they were conducting an illegal deal.
During the lunch break, I managed to have an awesome conversations with Mario Gabelli, Jack Bogle, who Buffett spent 5 minutes praising at the beginning of the meeting, and Mohnish Pabrai. My favourite part was when Jack Bogle approached Mario and fist pumped him saying "Yo Mario, give us a stock tip!" (It's funny because Bogle founded Vanguard, biggest passive market index fund manager in the world. They only own the market overall but was asking for a stock tip!)
I will provide some notes on Buffett's and Munger's commentary that I found quite interesting, however overall it was insightful. Lots of it we had heard before, but there were some interesting nuggets. At 4pm, I headed off and can you believe, I bumped into my favourite Podcast creators/contributors. I usually share their content with you in my weekend listening and reading section. Patrick O'Shaughnessy (front right) Ted Seides (back right) and Brent Beshore, who is the CEO of adventure.es. For those that don't know, Ted is the guy who made the $1m bet with Buffett. I spent 3 hours with those guys and had an absolute blast! As a result of the bet, Ted frequently catches up with Warren for dinner, along with Todd Combs and Ted Weschler (Buffett's capital allocators). Do yourself a favour and listen to this podcast. I was able to pick his brain for a few hours, not only about his experiences with Warren but also about what he had achieved throughout this investment career. By 8pm, as you could imagine, I was cooked. I had some really bad Mexican food and by 9:30pm I was back at the hotel. I had a 5km run to do the next morning at 8am, Sounded like a good agenda item when I was back at the office desk and organising my activities for the trip, not so much Saturday night.
Sunday - Invest In Yourself run, Borsheims, Gorats...Incredible Day!
I managed to get to the starting line-up and completed the 5km in a reasonable time (reasonable considering I had 10 hours sleep in 48 hours and bad Mexican food as my fuel). It was 9am and 22 degrees, so I decided to jog to the hotel, ever so slowly (another 8km, don't ask me why!). I showered and headed off to the Borsheim's cocktail party. Live music, brunch, open bar, shopping!
Rather than taking advantage of the open bar, I positioned myself nice and early for the Warren Buffett - Bill Gates table tennis challenge. It was good fun. Bill and Warren had a hit for a bit and headed off. I then bumped into my mates Eugene and Jason, and we just talked and talked. Family, Finance, Business, Berkshire, Warren...such an awesome 3 hour conversation on the same spot. We even made it onto Omaha TV. Jason and Eugene had to get their flight and left me to it. I walked around a little, and without going into too much detail, happy to for those that are interested, I ended up having dinner at Gorat's Steakhouse, Warren Buffett's favourite eating place.
I should also mention, a minor detail, hmm...well...I was on the table next to Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Charlie Munger. Yeap! I can't believe it either. I snuck in a photo even though I shouldn't have. The people in that room were there because they were "trusted entities". They behave and let them be. I haven't seen so many security guards in one room ever in my life. So here I am, from the other side of the world having dinner on the table next to them. (I had to lock my feet under the table so I wouldn't get up and do a cartwheel)
What a weekend it was...if you are a Warren, Charlie or Berkshire fan, I highly recommend ticking the Berkshire Hathaway AGM off your bucket list!