Dollars and Jens
Saturday, May 01, 2004
Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting
I feel like I should say something about the Berkshire Hathaway meeting, but I'm not going to provide detailed notes, because I'm tired and because I expect Whitney Tilson -- who, incidentally, asked a question at the meeting -- to do it better than I would.
Just a few comments, not all of them important:
- Heading into the meeting, I came within two feet of Maria Bartiromo, whom I recognized immediately after I passed her.
- The new digs are nice, but the acoustics could have been better, and the screens they projected things onto were too small from the back, where my dad and I sat.
- Charlie was more talkative than usual.
- Buffett made a few positive comments about Google, mostly on their inclusion of an "owner's manual" in their S-1 (which they explicitly said was inspired by Berkshire Hathaway's owner's manual), and management's indication that they wouldn't jimmy their quarterly numbers to please Wall Street.
- Buffett, asked about CALPERS trying to get him off of the board of Coke, said it was good that they were trying to take an active interest in a company they part-own, but that they weren't thinking so much as looking at checklists.
I commented to Dean that Buffett does have some conflict of interest from the fact that McLane is a significant purchaser of Coke products, but that if you take that principle as an absolute, nobody who drinks Coke could be on the board of directors. There's obviously a line to be drawn somewhere, but when Berkshire Hathaway owns 8% of Coke, I think any conflict has to be pretty overwhelming to deny Berkshire a seat on Coke's board.
- Charlie suggested "Deep Simplicity", which is not yet available in the United States but soon will be.
- Buffett has been reading "A Short History of Nearly Everything".
- Warren recommended Phil Fisher's first two books, "Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits" and "Conservative Investors Sleep Well".
- Charlie referred us to the autobiography of Les Schwab, who sold tires in the Pacific Northwest, for examples of well thought-out incentive systems.