What's happening at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting 2019
Berkshire Hathaway's (BRKB) annual shareholder meeting isn't the only investor event going on in Omaha this weekend.
A group of top female investors held what they dubbed the Variant Perspectives Conference on Friday at the Hilton across the street from the CHI Health Center where the Berkshire gathering was taking place...and Buffett showed up.
Buffett said it was "long overdue" for a conference led by women investors, adding that "track records should open doors." He also said:
The stock doesn't know who owns you."
Barbara Ann Bernard, founder and chief investment officer of Wincrest Capital and one of the Variant event's organizers, told me she was thrilled that Buffett showed up and noted that after years of not having many high profile women at Berkshire, the company now has four female directors on its board.
"Men are not the problem. They are the solution," Bernard said.
Bernard noted that hedge funds run by women have outperformed a broader index of funds over the past few years. That's proof that more women deserve a chance to be portfolio managers.
"This isn't a pity party," she said. "The issue is scale. We need more mentors."
The housing market has done extremely well over the past few years thanks to low interest rates and steady job growth. That's great news for paint giant Benjamin Moore, the Berkshire-owned company that competes with Sherwin Williams (SHW), PPG (PPG) and Behr.
But Benjamin Moore CEO Dan Calkins said that there is one problem. A well-publicized shortage of workers in the housing industry means that sales could be even better than they already are -- even though he said the housing market is "hot."
Jim Weber isn't worrying about the athleisure trend. The CEO of Berkshire Hathaway-owned sneaker and apparel company Brooks Running, said that his firm is stealing share of much larger companies like Nike (NKE) and Adidas (ADDYY) because it is focusing on hardcore runners.
Weber said sales grew 26% last year and the company has continued to gain momentum so far in 2019. Brooks shoes are more popular at specialty running stores and outdoor sports chains REI and Academy Sports than mall-based retailers like Foot Locker (FL) and Finish Line.
But Brooks clearly is doing fine by courting serious runners. Weber said the company has added nearly 2 million customers in the past year and they are proving to be loyal.
Weber said the company generated about $500,000 in sales at the Berkshire shareholder meeting last year. And based on the long line outside the Brooks booth in Omaha Friday, it looks like a lot of Berkshire shareholders realize that running is a smart thing to do after eating Berkshire-owned Dairy Queen and See's Candies.
It's a question that needs to be answered. How do you replace the irreplaceable?
Warren Buffet is 88 and won't be the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (BRKB) forever. Vice chairman Charlie Munger is 95. Someone younger will need to take over.
Odds are, the duties will be split by four top Berkshire executives:
- Greg Abel, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Energy Company
- Ajit Jain, Berkshire Hathaway's insurance chief
- Ted Weschler and Todd Combs, Berkshire Hathaway's top investment managers
For what it's worth, few expect any major changes at Berkshire after Buffett retires or passes away. All of the heads of insurance businesses now report to Jain and the non-insurance execs report to Abel.
Both Jim Weber, the CEO of Berkshire running shoe subsidiary Brooks, and Dan Calkins, the new CEO of paint giant Benjamin Moore, told me at the shareholder meeting Friday that reporting to Abel isn't too different than having Buffett as a boss.
Abel lets his managers run their business with little interference, but he's there for them as a sounding board for key decisions. They both said that Abel is a big proponent of the "decentralized" approach Buffett is known for when running his businesses.
That means Berkshire Hathaway's corporate culture should live on even after Buffett is gone.
Berkshire Hathaway's (BRKB) annual shareholder meeting takes place in a giant arena in Omaha. CNN Business' Paul La Monica is in the exhibit hall, where investors and fans alike can see products from dozens of Berkshire-owned companies, like Coca-Cola (KO) and Duracell.
Here's what it's like on the ground:
Berkshire owns nearly 27% of Kraft Heinz (KHC). The stock has plunged nearly 20% this year.
Coca-Cola is one of Buffett's favorite stocks.
Berkshire Hathaway bought the battery company in 2014.
Tens of thousands have descended on this Nebraska city to watch Warren Buffett talk about the market and economy at the Berkshire Hathaway (BRKB) annual shareholder meeting Saturday.
Here are some of the likely talking points for Buffett and Berkshire vice chairman Charlie Munger.
- Amazon (AMZN): Buffett just revealed that Berkshire bought some shares after shunning it for two decades
- Apple (AAPL): It’s now Berkshire’s top holding.
- Kraft Heinz (KHC): Does the Oracle Of Omaha think the struggling company can turn things around?
- Wells Fargo (WFC): Who does Buffett think the bank should hire to fix its fake accounts mess?
Has Warren Buffett lost his magic touch?
Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway's (BRKB) has lagged the broader market this year. The stock is up just 7% in 2019, compared to a nearly 18% gain for the S&P 500.
Several of Buffett's favorite stocks — most notably Wells Fargo (WFC) and Coca-Cola (KO) — have underperformed. Another top pick, Kraft Heinz (KHC), has been an outright disaster, plunging more than 20% this year.
Buffett and Berkshire vice chair Charlie Munger will probably face questions from investors about those struggling stocks, possible Berkshire acquisitions and succession plans at the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting in Omaha this weekend.
The exact amount will be disclosed in Berkshire's quarterly report to the Securities and Exchange Commission that's filed later this month.
Buffett is well-known for not being the biggest fan of tech stocks.
But he has made no secret of his admiration for Amazon (AMZN) and Jeff Bezos, repeatedly praising the e-commerce company and its chief executive during past Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meetings.
Yeah, I've been a fan, and I've been an idiot for not buying" Amazon shares, Buffett told CNBC earlier this week.
Warren Buffett has said he's ready to invest in Britain. Even for the legendary investor, that could be a tough bet.
Buffett's record in the United Kingdom is spotty.
He's referred to his investment in supermarket chain Tesco (TSCDF) as a "big mistake." And an attempt by Berkshire Hathaway (BRKB)-backed Kraft Heinz to buy Unilever in 2017 collapsed after the consumer goods giant said it wasn't interested.
Still, Buffett has made it clear that he's eager to plow some of Berkshire's cash into a huge deal, and that Britain remains on the table.