"It is difference of opinion that makes horse races." Mark Twain. OMAHA, Neb. -- It's Warren Buffett's opinion that makes the Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK.A) annual meeting. And that was worth more than a certain horse race to Jim Peddle. "This is something I've always wanted to do but have always had a competing event the first weekend in May," joked Peddle, a mortgage banker from Chicago attending his first Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting. "We call it the Kentucky Derby." While the six hours of questions the Oracle of Omaha and his sidekick Charlie Munger will face as today's annual meeting plays to nearly 12,000 faithful at the Omaha Civic Center will seem like a marathon compared to the mile-and-a-quarter sprint in Louisville, there are similarities. A lavish party Friday night at Buffett's Borsheims jewelry store found hundreds of shareholders grazing on crudit¿s and roast beef like horses as the horserace to find the perfect piece of jewelry showed just the capitalistic bent of Berkshire shareholders. And, this morning, thousands of Berkshire shareholders crowded the front doors of the Civic Center to get the first glimpse of the Oracle just as revelers crowd the infield gates at Churchill Downs in hopes of getting a split-second glance at horses as they make the turn into the homestretch. However, there is one stark difference. Most of the Buffett faithful in Omaha this weekend are focused on investing. For those in Louisville, money decisions are much shorter term.
Allure and Intrigue
What could possibly be so exciting about a corporate annual meeting that would have the ability to pull a track fanatic away from the most exciting horse race of the year? It's important to understand first the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting isn't your typical annual meeting -- a 20-minute perfunctory counting of the proxies where all the outcomes are predetermined. Indeed, while the one shareholder proposal on the Berkshire agenda tomorrow -- to extend directed charitable giving to "Class B" shareholders -- is likely to take less than five minutes to dispose of, it is what happens after the formal meeting that has captivated Berkshire shareholders for decades.