What Warren Buffett Will Say This Weekend

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's Buffett Time again.

The first weekend in May brings the annual meeting of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) (BRK.B) in Omaha, the corporate Woodstock (or Warrenstock) presided over by the smiling face of the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett.

We love Warrenstock because we love Warren. He's grounded. He's straightforward. He likes simple things such as Dairy Queen. He's also usually right about the financial weather.

This year's Warrenstock finds us in a mature recovery, dominated by energy, with Buffett worried that, just like in the last decade, complex derivatives could bring about a financial collapse.

His big deal is the purchase of Alberta's largest electric transmission company, AltaLink, and the renaming of his electric company from MidAmerican Energy to Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

Its CEO, Greg Abel, is among the candidates to succeed Buffett, and he's been buying both utilities and renewable-energy facilities to power them for years, creating one of the largest transmission systems in the West.

Retailing energy is a good business for Buffett. Energy resources have turned out to be a bad business. The company held bonds in Energy Future Holdings, which recently declared bankruptcy after it bet on coal-fired power plants and rising natural gas prices.

Yes, Warren Buffett makes mistakes.

But what draws the crowd to Warrenstock is Buffett's economic populism.

This year he's on the warpath against huge bonuses at Coca-Cola (KO), chastising JPMorgan Chase (JPM) for its complex derivatives holdings -- thus the prediction of potential financial collapse -- and telling small investors they can still win by running their own money through low-cost exchange-traded funds instead of managed brokerage accounts.

Buffett doesn't make his big money while the people are cheering, however. He freely admits that when the markets are good his performance may trail it, as our Marc Courtenay wrote this week. The parts of Berkshire-Hathaway may indeed be worth more than the whole, as our Herb Greenberg wrote

Instead, Buffett makes his billions when everyone else panics, as he described in this year's letter to shareholders. The letter, released March 1, notes happily that "Almost without exception, the largest insurers seeking aid came to Berkshire." It's the financial strength to get through disasters that makes Berkshire worth owning today more than anything else.

That, and Buffett's way with a story. This year he told the story of Rose Blumkin, matriarch of the Nebraska Furniture Mart. He bought it in 1983, when she was 89, and she kept working there until 103. "My kind of woman," he writes, turning the story into a parable about the value of hard work and honesty.

The myth of Warren Buffett is that the company America turns to in a panic is more of a George Bailey than a Mr. Potter, a benign figure with the common good at heart. This is what makes him "bankable," in Jim Cramer's words.

It's this myth that will have shareholders lining up to buy diamonds inscribed with Buffett's signature this weekend, and lining up private jets on the Omaha airport runway.

Like all myths, it is a combination of truth and fiction. It speaks to values we like to hold dear, and strengths we'd like to think we have in tough times.

Someday Warren Buffett will be gone, and Warrenstock will disappear. The myths of honesty, thrift, straight talk and strength will remain as his legacy, the legend we'll tell our grandchildren.

At the time of publication the author owned shares of KO.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

 

More from Opinion

Sears CEO Eddie Lampert Looks Like He Is Sucking Company Dry

Sears CEO Eddie Lampert Looks Like He Is Sucking Company Dry

Nasdaq Exec: Exchange Is 'All-In' on Using Blockchain Technology

Nasdaq Exec: Exchange Is 'All-In' on Using Blockchain Technology

It's Dumb to Think Legalizing Weed Is Still a Political Issue

It's Dumb to Think Legalizing Weed Is Still a Political Issue

AAP Exclusive: Cramer Says The President is No Longer on the Side of the Bulls

AAP Exclusive: Cramer Says The President is No Longer on the Side of the Bulls

Why It Makes Perfect Sense for Netflix and Amazon to Buy Up Movie Theaters

Why It Makes Perfect Sense for Netflix and Amazon to Buy Up Movie Theaters