PHOTO SHOWCASE: Berkshire Hathaway at Regency Court
VIDEO: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates take on Olympian Ariel Hsing in table tennis match
VIDEO: Warren Buffett sells diamonds at Borsheim's
* * *
While Warren Buffett traded table tennis shots with a U.S. Olympian, matched wits with Bill Gates at bridge and sold thousands of dollars in jewelry Sunday, his shareholders were digesting a free brunch as well as the messages he gave them about money during his company's weekend for capitalism in Omaha.
“He's a master teacher,” said Bob Klein, a portfolio manager from Newport Beach, Calif., who made his 15th trip to Omaha for the annual shareholders meeting of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the investment company headed by Buffett. “I always learn something that helps cement my knowledge of investing.”
Dairy farmer Roly Tavernor said he “thoroughly enjoyed” his first trip to Omaha. “Everyone's been so friendly.”
He said he uses management methods at his dairy operation in Shropshire, England, gleaned from Buffett's annual report to shareholders. While he and a friend, Irishman Mike Murphy, came to the U.S. for the long weekend, his dairy managers are in charge back in the U.K.
“I allow them to do as their character allows them to do,” Tavernor said. He said he was impressed by the positive comments about Berkshire's future from Buffett and Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger during Saturday's meeting.
“Berkshire's a very fine company and probably will continue to be so in the foreseeable future,” Tavernor said, adding that he would consider buying more Berkshire shares.
This also was the first Berkshire meeting for Betsy Ronspies of Omaha, who is studying hospitality management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She said she followed the business points during Saturday's five hours of questions and answers by Buffett and Munger and was impressed with Buffett's wit.
“He had a little sass to him,” Ronspies said. “He has that sense of humor to keep him grounded.”
Meeting veteran Arvin Lee of St. Charles, Ill., said he was satisfied with Buffett's discussion about his health and Berkshire's CEO succession plan.
Berkshire's directors have designated a successor and two backups, although they are unnamed. Buffett announced last month that he will be treated for prostate cancer this summer. Saturday, he called it a nonevent that won't create lasting problems or cause him to miss any work.
“People are in place,” Lee said. “I trust him.”
Adam Thodey of Denver said he appreciated Buffett's willingness to share his ideas with the shareholders.
“He reminds me of my grandfather — good advice,” said Thodey, 38. “Over the next 10 years we need to get that experience out of his head so we can learn.”
Thodey recently closed a business he had started and is looking for an aerospace job. He once owned a share of Class A Berkshire stock but lost his job and had to convert it into the cheaper Class B shares and sell some to pay bills.
They were among several thousand Berkshire shareholders at the brunch at Regency Court, where Buffett and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who is a Berkshire director, tried their luck — it was bad — against table tennis champion Ariel Hsing of San Jose, Calif. After a bridge session, Buffett made his way to Borsheims, Berkshire's Omaha jewelry store, to close deals with customers lined up by the store's sales staff.
Bruce Heinlein of Bellevue bought a diamond ring for his wife, Barbara, for their 10th anniversary. They came early Sunday, picked out a 1.21-carat, pillow-cut white diamond in a setting surrounded by smaller diamonds and waited for Buffett to hit the sales floor.
“We wanted to buy something special,” Heinlein said.
The Omaha World-Herald Co. is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Contact the writer:
Warren Buffett and Bill Gates play Olympian Ariel Hsing in a table tennis match.
Warren Buffett sells diamonds at Borsheim's.