The Definitive Guide to the Berkshire AGM

 

In this article, I shall explore the things to do if you attend the Berkshire Hathaway AGM. There is a plethora of external events for investors – too many to attend, in fact. Here is my guide to what to do to make the most of the weekend.

 

Getting there

Omaha is not exactly easy to reach from outside the US and isn’t brilliant inside the US. I booked the flights late and paid up. I flew via Chicago but connections were 2 and 8 hours after my arrival – 2 had no margin of safety (flights are often delayed out of Heathrow and I have often spent an hour or as many as three getting through immigration in the past). And 8 was obviously too long, so I flew to Des Moines and rented a car – it’s a two hour drive.  Kansas City is less than a 3 hour drive. It might be worth exploring these alternatives as the direct flights are very expensive that weekend.

 

Where to Stay

The best places to stay are those closest to the CHI Health Center where the AGM Is held – there are lots of events in the Hilton which is connected to the convention centre and in the Marriott which is 5minutes away. Other hotels which are very close include a Courtyard by Marriott, a Hilton Garden Inn and the Embassy Suites which is a sub-15 minute walk.

I was booking late so took the only thing I could reasonably find which was a Best Western Plus 12 miles away but the journey was painless, although I should have found the cheap parking opposite the Hilton earlier.

I would probably use cabs next time as I missed out on a lot of free drink (painful for a Scotsman) although it may be hard to get one unless you leave plenty of time.

The Downtown Area

Source: Google Maps

Most of the action is in the Hilton and the Marriott hotels next to the CHI Health Center where the AGM itself is held. The Hilton bar gets mobbed and that’s where I was hanging out.

 

Weather/Dress

 It both rained and was high 20s (early 80s) degrees so pack a small umbrella just in case and take layers. I wore a shirt and chinos the whole weekend (I took more than one of each!).

 

Food and Drink

Eating and drinking is centred in the Old Market area which is 15 minutes walk from the CHI Health Center.

Eating and Drinking

Source: Google Maps

Jams Steakhouse was pretty popular, as was the Blue Sushi Sake Grill. I would recommend the Upstream Brewing Company and Mr Toad was a nice bar with shaded outdoor seating.

 

What to Do

I recommend arriving on Thursday evening and leaving Sunday afternoon or Monday morning as there is tons to do on Friday and the 5K run and Markel brunch on Sunday morning are worth attending.

Outside the formal conferences and events, one thing worth doing is a visit to a couple of Berkshire subsidiaries which have great sales on the weekend and are worth seeing. Borsheims is a huge jewellery and watch store and there was a 20+% discount offered on a black pearl necklace retailing at $40k – similarly with some high-end watches which are not usually discounted.

 

Visit Borsheims and Nebraska Furniture Mart

Source: Google Maps

Borsheims is 8 miles and 15 minutes from the CHI Health Center. Nebraska Furniture Mart is five minutes away and a little closer to downtown.

 

Events

This is not intended as a comprehensive list but these are the events I saw and mainly attended. I have given general company home pages as the best way of getting an invite is probably to contact them directly.

Thursday

Value Investor Conference starts. This is a two day event and there are various associated dinners etc.

Peterson Capital hold a BBQ on the Thursday evening.

CFA Society Nebraska hold a value investing dinner.

 

Friday

GAMCO hold a conference in the morning – I am not sure of the price as Mario Gabelli invited me.

Guru Focus had a conference next door which was $1075.

Guy Spier has a ValueX Berkshire conference which is invite only and you are required to do a stock pitch.

Vitaliy Katsenelson holds a breakfast.

Local university Creighton has a Value Investing Panel in the afternoon.

MOI Global have a Best Ideas Conference for their subscribers.

The trade show where Berkshire subsidiaries display their wares is open in the CHI Health Center on the Friday and you probably won’t have enough time to visit all the stands on the Saturday.

Cook and Bynum have a drinks reception on the Friday evening in the Hilton.

The From Graham to Buffett and Beyond dinner in aid of Columbia Business School is priced at $375 and is held at the Hilton – Mario Gabelli sponsors the event and speaks as one of the panellists. It was great fun and the food was good too!

Saturday

The main event – the AGM. You need to be a shareholder but each shareholder gets 4 tickets so there were plenty floating around.

If there is a large group of you, and you want a good seat, you need to get here early. People start queueing at 4.30 am! I sat on my own randomly and arrived at 8am and it wasn’t difficult. The more of you there are, the harder it will be and the earlier you need to be. Seating was much more plentiful after lunch as lots of people go home. I needed the screens as I was a long way away even in the afternoon when I moved to the ground floor.

I attended a private event in the afternoon as I was kindly added to the list but it wasn’t generally open.

Willow Oak also hold a mini conference after the AGM in the Marriott.

 

Sunday

The Brooks Invest in Yourself 5K run is a popular event on Sunday morning.

Markel hold an investor conference and a delicious Marriott brunch where Tom Gayner speaks.

 

Monday

Boston Omaha Shareholder Meeting and Reception

 

Meetups

I attended two meetups, both most enjoyable. I would highly recommend Tilman Versch’s Good Investing group which had a large contingent of mainly German and Swiss investors. It’s definitely a community worth joining and they rent Air BnBs and attend the AGM as a group.

The Investors Podcast also hosted a series of drinks and meetups.

 

Conclusion

I really enjoyed my visit last year and intend to go again. It’s sad that Munger won’t be there but I haven’t spoken to anyone who has decided to stop going as a consequence. It’s not just about the AGM, of course – it’s catching up with old friends and making new ones and attending some of the peripheral events. See you there!

 

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