This column originally appeared on Real Money Pro at 10:48 a.m. EDT on April 29.
NEW YORK (Real Money) --
Becky Quick: Let's talk a little bit more about your letter and some of the things you put out in it. You mentioned that you were going to be doing some things a little differently this year at the Annual Meeting. Last year you added a panel of analysts who asked a lot of questions at the Annual Meeting -- along with three journalists who asked questions and all the questions that come from the audience. You say you are going to have one insurance analyst but you've added another analyst who will be looking at the other Berkshire companies and that you are looking actively for a bear on Berkshire Hathaway. Why did you add that?In early March, near the end of Warren Buffett's 2012 letter to Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A)/ (BRK.B) shareholders (on page 24, to be exact), Buffett wrote the following general invitation for "a credentialed bear" to address him and Charlie Munger:
Warren Buffett: To make it more interesting. The crowd can hear somebody that thinks the stock is overpriced or that it's a house of cards or whatever it may be. And we want the media to be interesting. So that person will get six questions, and we now have that person because I said it had to be a credentialed bear, preferably one who was short the stock. Doug Kass is certainly a credentialed investor, and he said he is short the stock and he'd like to do it. Doug, you are on!Becky Quick: Does he know this? Warren Buffett: No, he just knows this now.... Doug, think of some tough questions. See if you can drive the stock down 10%! Becky Quick: Why, so you can buy more shares? Warren Buffett: Yes, that would be OK! -- CNBC's "Squawk Box" (March 4, 2013)
Finally -- to spice things up -- we would like to add to the panel a credentialed bear on Berkshire, preferably one who is short the stock. Not yet having a bear identified, we would like to hear from applicants. The only requirement is that you be an investment professional and negative on Berkshire. The three analysts will bring their own Berkshire-specific questions and alternate with the journalists and the audience in asking them. -- Warren Buffett's 2012 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders (March 1, 2013)I seized the opportunity and threw my hat in the ring that weekend. Upon dutifully reading Buffett's letter to shareholders, as I have routinely done since the early 1970s (beginning while I attended Wharton), I began preparing my proposal to be considered as Berkshire's "credentialed bear." In an email containing my response to that proposal (which both Andrew Ross Sorkin and Becky Quick were nice enough to forward to Mr. Buffett), I included my resume and a negative column that I had previously written in March 2008 about Berkshire Hathaway that had laid out my rationale for betting against the company and being short the stock. I also provided Warren Buffett with the names of several professional references, including Omega's Lee Cooperman, Oaktree's Howard Marks and Gamco's Mario Gabelli. I selected these three iconic investors because I knew that The Oracle of Omaha was acquainted with them and held them all in high regard. The following Monday morning, while watching an interview with Mr. Buffett and Becky Quick on "Squawk Box," I was shocked, surprised, honored and flattered to have been invited and selected as the "credentialed bear" to ask questions at the annual meeting in Omaha during the first week of May.
I Am Going to Disneyland -- I Mean, Omaha!As I mentioned in a recent New York Times article, my initial response was one of elation. Similar to the quarterback who wins the Super Bowl, I told the author of that article, Peter Latham, that "I am going to Disneyland -- I mean, Omaha!" After all, similar to so many, I have worshiped at the altar of Warren Buffett since the early 1970s, indeed my writings on TheStreet over the past fifteen years have often been punctuated with Buffettisms. As the weight of the invite to ask questions of Buffett/Munger about Berkshire on Saturday, May 5, sunk in, I became reflective.
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