As an 11 year-old growing up in Hong Kong, Jason Fang, 30, learned the principles of vertical integration when his favorite comics company Marvel bought distributor Heroes World in 1994. He mentions Fortune Magazine as another popular publication from his youth.
Fang graduated Stanford University in 2005 and earned master's degrees in management science and engineering a year later. After a stint at a startup in Palo Alto, Fang now is a part-time consultant and bides his time practicing money management with his savings.
"Priority number one is getting to the point where I can say without any hesitation I can be a good steward of [other people's] money," Fang says of his goal to start an investment fund. "For me, it could mean I am living on Ramen for the next few years."Fang's interest in investing was piqued by Peter Lynch's One Up On Wall Street. He grew more familiar with Buffett after investing in Berkshire at the onset of the financial crisis. Saturday was Fang's fifth shareholder meeting. One year, he spoke in front of a near 30,000 audience at Berkshire's meeting when a shareholder commented that the firm's MidAmerican Energy unit was contributing to global warming. Fang argued it wasn't Buffett and Munger's practice to intervene with operating subsidiaries like MidAmerican, even if issues such as climate change have legitimacy. The shareholder motion on combating climate change was overwhelmingly rejected. Warren Buffett said at Berkshire's shareholder meeting few seeking to raise their own funds will succeed. He nonetheless advised aspiring professional investors to have an audited track record as early as possible. "To attract money, you should deserve money," Buffett said. Even if a majority of Buffett devotees are unlikely to manage money professionally, Morris of Meson Capital maintains the 'Oracle' isn't a false idol. "The ties between investing and business are very close," says Morris, who sees Buffett and Munger's teamwork, ability to delegate responsibility and ethics as transferable to life outside the investment world. For young attendees, the Berkshire meeting is a whirlwind. Saturday morning, Morris waited in rainy darkness outside Omaha's CenturyLink Center so he could grab a seat close to Buffett and Munger's podium. Once inside, Morris found himself standing next to George Lucas, the billionaire Star Wars creator. He also ran into Mario Gabelli, head of GAMCO Investors, who recommended Morris for a board seat on Telecom & Data Systems (TDS) in April. "It's just so cool that you could catch up with these famous billionaire investors, but that we are all students of the grand masters, Buffett and Munger," says Morris. "It has this leveling effect." At a gathering hosted by Whitney Tilson of Kase Capital, Antoine, the Princeton graduate, ran into William Ackman, the billionaire head of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management. They discussed books they were reading, a recent investing competition run by Pershing at Columbia University and work of mathematician Kurt Godel. Ackman's last leisure read was The China Study, a popular book covering nutrition, weight loss and health, according to Antoine, who had met the hedge funder before as an intern at Tilson's Value Investing Congress. Tilson says he has been going to the Berkshire meeting for 15 years. "It is heartening to see how many young people are attending," he says. Meetings like the one between Ackman and Antoine are the kind of thing that attracts newcomers like James Sullivan, 26, an aspiring financial professional and 2011 graduate of New York University School of Law. "The beauty of the meeting is you could be worth $100 million to $200 million or you could have just one B share. It does have a democratic appeal in that everyone is there to learn and be proselytized," Sullivan says. Sullivan also says Buffett's six-hour question and answer session can be a calming influence against the mania of asset bubbles. "Rationality will win out in the long-run." Some Berkshire neophytes inherited the gospel of Buffett from their parents. Dennis E. Prendeville, 62, bought Berkshire A shares with a market order in the stock market crash of 1987. Prendeville, who has been an investor his whole life and even published a book Common Stock Price Histories, 1910-1987, says it took three days to find out he had bought Berkshire shares in the rout. Prendeville says gains he made on A shares helped him open a water park in his hometown Anchorage, Alaska about a decade ago. His 22 year-old son is now a regular at Berkshire's shareholder meeting. "Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger are great role models and a lot of young people are recognizing it," says Prendeville, who has been attending the meeting in Omaha since 1995. Prendeville's son owns B shares. "He could have an A share if he bought it on margin," he says. -- Written by Antoine Gara. Follow @antoinegara
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