Sunday, March 01, 2009

Top Ten Questions We’d Like to Hear Warren Buffett Asked at the Berkshire Annual Meeting


Well, Warren agrees with us!

In our book, “Pilgrimage to Warren Buffett’s Omaha,” we pointed out that Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting is no longer mainly about Berkshire Hathaway.

Instead, the Berkshire meeting is mainly about Warren Buffett—what he eats to stay healthy, what he reads to stay informed, and what he thinks about all manner of topics, from what teenagers should do with their lives to how he’d handle the healthcare crisis.

Far from being a “forum for business discussion,” as Buffett [once] wrote, not a single shareholder has even asked about the business.—Chapter 27, “What Would Warren Do?”

And Buffett, it turns out, agrees.

In his just-releasted 2008 shareholder letter, Buffett discloses an unprecedented change to the question-and-answer session with the following preface:

In recent years, we have received only a handful of questions directly related to Berkshire and its operations. Last year there were practically none. So we need to steer the discussion back to Berkshire’s businesses.

No kidding. Last year’s meeting had the single most off-topic question we’ve ever heard at a shareholder meeting:

“Do you know and believe in Jesus Christ, and do you have a personal relationship with God?”

Buffett did answer that question—as he does nearly every question asked of him, no matter how out-there—and if you care to find out what he said, you can purchase a copy of “Pilgrimage to Warren Buffett's Omaha."

Or, you can compete for a complimentary copy here at JeffMatthewsIsNotMakingThisUp.

That’s right.

In order to try to help Warren Buffett “steer the discussion” at the upcoming shareholder meeting back to Berkshire Hathaway, we’re holding the first annual Pilgrimage to Omaha's Top Ten List of Questions We’d Like to Hear Warren Buffett Asked.

1. Simply email your question—a good one—to


PilgrimageToOmaha@gmail.com.

2. On April 1, 2009 all questions received by that date will be posted, via a link at the top of this blog. You, our readers, will then get to vote on which questions you judge belong in the Top Ten.

3. The top ten vote-getting questions as of the New York Stock Exchange close on April 15, 2009, will be deemed The Top Ten Questions We'd Like to See Warren Buffett Asked.

4. Those ten questions will then be forwarded to one of three reporters anointed by Buffett to collect, choose and read alternating questions at the shareholder meeting (Andrew Ross Sorkin, ace New York Times reporter).

Now, there is no guarantee that any of our Top Ten questions will get selected, let alone asked, at the meeting.

Here’s how Buffett described the process in his letter:

…several financial journalists from organizations representing newspapers, magazines and television will participate in the question-and-answer period, asking Charlie [Munger] and me questions that shareholders have submitted by e-mail….

From the questions submitted [to the reporters], each journalist will choose the dozen or so he or she decides are the most interesting and important. (In your e-mail, let the journalist know if you would like your name mentioned if your question is selected.)

Neither Charlie nor I will get so much as a clue about the questions to be asked. We know the journalists will pick some tough ones and that’s the way we like it.


To be very clear, we have no official (or unofficial, for that matter) relationship to Berkshire Hathaway or to the three journalists who will receive, winnow, and ask the questions. Anybody can email their questions directly to the journalists, as instructed by Buffett. Also, s
hareholders will also be able to ask their own questions at the meeting, based on a lottery system.

But Buffett says he’s looking for “tough ones.” and we can’t think of a better informed crowd that’s up to the challenge than the readers of NotMakingThisUp.

So email your question—one per email, please, and make it a good, well thought-out question—to


PilgrimageToOmaha@gmail.com.

1. Make it 40 words or less, so we have room on the blog, and make it exactly how you want it worded. Otherwise, we'll have to edit. (If you dislike the way we edit your question, follow-up with an email.)

2. No multiple-part questions, and no questions about what Berkshire is buying or selling now. Anything else, as Buffett might say, is fair game.

3. Include your name and mailing address, so you can get credit when we determine the Top Ten. However, your name will not be posted on this site.

4. Indicate if you'd like your name identified or withheld, should your question be asked at the meeting.

To repeat: there are no assurances any of these questions will be asked.


But our readers are no slouches, so who knows? Perhaps your question will make headlines come May 2nd when Buffett is finally asked about something besides how he stays healthy and what he would do if elected President.

And whether he has “a personal relationship with God.”

Readers who submit the Top Ten vote-getters as of the New York Stock Exchange close on April 15, 2009, will receive an autographed copy of "Pilgrimage to Warren Buffett's Omaha."

So, to quote those ancient philosophers, the Black Eyed Peas, let’s get it started.



Jeff Matthews
PilgrimageToOmaha@gmail.com
Pilgrimage to Omaha™

© 2008 NotMakingThisUp, LLC

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Matthews.
Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews’ recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes investment advice. It should never be relied on in making an investment decision, ever. Nor are these comments meant to be a solicitation of business in any way: such inquiries will not be responded to. This content is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,

I just saw your comments at Tech Ticker @ Yahoo.com and I was compelled to compliment you on your observations and your modesty and humbleness.

Specially when the hosts asked you, "Where did Warren Buffet go wrong", I liked your response. It was humble and honest. Kudos.

You have now hooked me to your blog and I would visit for more content in future, Insha Allah.

Khalid

Anonymous said...

16 days with no post?