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Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway at a glance

Ahead of the company’s upcoming annual shareholder meeting in Nebraska.
Warren Buffett at the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. Picture: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Warren Buffett will host tens of thousands of people in Omaha, Nebraska from May 3-5 at what he calls “Woodstock for Capitalists,” the annual shareholder weekend for his company, Berkshire Hathaway.

The weekend features shopping discounts, a five-kilometre run and a cocktail reception that occupies an entire shopping mall. Investor conferences focused on Berkshire and “value” investing are also scattered around the city.

At Berkshire’s annual meeting on May 4, Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger will answer more than five hours of shareholder questions. The meeting will be broadcast on Yahoo Finance.

Facts about Warren Edward Buffett

Born: August 30, 1930

Education: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Columbia Business School

Family: Buffett married his wife, Astrid Menks, on August 30, 2006, his 76th birthday. Buffett’s first wife Susan died in 2004. They had three children: Susan, Howard and Peter.

Net worth: $82.5 billion on April 30, 2019, ranking third worldwide. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, a Berkshire director since 2004, ranked second. Amazon.com Chief Executive Jeff Bezos and his family ranked first. Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan Chase & Co are working on a venture called Haven to lower employee healthcare costs. (Source: Forbes)

Berkshire ownership stake: 16.5% as of March 6, 2019

Berkshire voting power: 31.4% as of March 6, 2019

How Buffett came to run Berkshire: In 1965, Buffett had planned to sell back his shares in Berkshire, then a struggling New England textile company, for $11.50 each. But when the term sheet showed a price of $11.375 per share, he got angry, and bought all the shares he could. He won control of Berkshire on May 10, 1965. The textile business closed in 1985.

Famous Buffett quotation: “Lose money for the firm, and I will be understanding. Lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless.” – September 4, 1991 congressional testimony about Salomon, where Buffett became interim chairman to restore order after a Treasury auction bidding scandal.

Philanthropy: Buffett has since 2006 donated more than $30.9 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and four family charities. His Berkshire stock will go to philanthropy after he dies.

Home: Buffett has lived in the same house on a well-trafficked Omaha street since 1958. The five-bedroom, 2-1/2-bath home on 0.72 acres was assessed at $886 900 in 2019. (Source: Douglas County, Nebraska)

Diet: Likes steaks and junk food. Estimates that one-fourth of his caloric intake comes from Coca-Cola.

Buffett drinks Coca Cola at the BNSF display at a trade show, during Berkshire’s annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. Picture: Rick Wilking/Reuters

Buffett on reducing his workload as he’s aged: “I’ve been semi-retired for decades.” (2018 annual meeting)

Facts about Berkshire Hathaway

Leadership: Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer; Charlie Munger, Gregory Abel and Ajit Jain, vice chairmen; Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, investment managers

2018 net income: $4.02 billion, reflecting $17.5 billion of investment losses and a $3 billion writedown on its 26.7% Kraft Heinz stake

Read: Buffett-backed Kraft Heinz turns to a new CEO with ‘fresh eyes’

2018 operating income: $24.78 billion

2018 revenue: $247.84 billion

Cash, equivalents and Treasury bills: $111.9 billion as of December 31, 2018

Stock price: $325,080.01 per Class A share as of April 30, 2019. Widely held Class B shares are worth about 1/1,500th as much.

Market value: about $533 billion as of April 30, 2019

Compounded annual changes from 1965-2018: book value per share: 18.7%; stock price: 20.5%; S&P 500 including dividends: 9.7% (pre-tax)

Float (insurance premiums collected before claims are paid, which help fund investments): $122.7 billion as of year-end

Selected business units: Benjamin Moore, Berkshire Hathaway Automotive, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance, BNSF, Borsheims Fine Jewelry, Brooks, Business Wire, Clayton Homes, Duracell, Fruit of the Loom, Geico, General Re, HomeServices of America, IMC International Metalworking, International Dairy Queen, Johns Manville, Lubrizol, Marmon, McLane, National Indemnity, Nebraska Furniture Mart, NetJets, Oriental Trading, Pampered Chef, Precision Castparts, See’s Candies, Three (Berkshire Hathaway Direct Insurance)

Selected acquisitions (larger amounts rounded to nearest billion): See’s Candies, $25 million (1972); Geico, $2.3 billion (1996); Dairy Queen, $590 million (1998); General Re, $16 billion (1998); NetJets, $725 million (1998); Clayton Homes, $1.7 billion (2003); PacifiCorp, $5 billion (2006); Marmon, $4.5 billion (2008); Burlington Northern Santa Fe, $27 billion (2010); Lubrizol, $9 billion (2011); NV Energy, $6 billion (2013); H.J. Heinz, $12 billion (majority stake, 2013); Van Tuyl, $4.1 billion (2015); Precision Castparts, $32 billion (2016), Pilot Flying J, $2.8 billion (38.6% stake, 2017). (Sources: Barclays Capital, Berkshire)

Major stock investments: American Express, Apple, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Kraft Heinz, Wells Fargo.

Buffett on acquisitions: “We hope to move much of our excess liquidity into businesses that Berkshire will permanently own. The immediate prospects for that, however, are not good: Prices are sky-high for businesses possessing decent long-term prospects…. We continue, nevertheless, to hope for an elephant-sized acquisition.” (Shareholder letter, Feb. 23, 2019)

Buffett on stock buybacks: “It is likely that — over time — Berkshire will be a significant repurchaser of its shares, transactions that will take place at prices above book value but below our estimate of intrinsic value.” (Shareholder letter, Feb. 23, 2019)

Employees at year-end: 389,373

Employees in main office: 26, including Buffett

Year Buffett met Munger: 1959

Year Munger became Berkshire vice chairman: 1978

Munger’s influence: Buffett has credited Munger, like him an admirer of famed value investor Benjamin Graham, with pushing him to find wonderful companies at fair prices, rather than fair companies at wonderful prices.

Munger on restraint in investing: “Part of the Berkshire secret is that when there’s nothing to do, Warren is very good at doing nothing…. Generally I think people make more money if they’re very narrowly specialized, like the proctologist. And it’s much harder to make a lot of money for most people if you try to imitate Warren and me.” (2018 annual meeting)

Succession: Buffett, 88, and Munger, 95, have not publicly signaled any plans to retire. Berkshire’s board plans to quickly install a new CEO when Buffett retires, cannot continue or dies.

Possible CEO successors: Abel, 56, who led Berkshire Hathaway Energy, and Jain, 67, a top insurance executive, have since January 2018 had day-to-day oversight of Berkshire’s non-insurance and insurance units, respectively. Buffett and Munger still handle major capital allocation decisions and investments.

Other possible successors: Combs and Weschler, who together recently managed $26 billion, may succeed Buffett as chief investment officer. Buffett’s eldest son Howard is expected to become non-executive chairman. Tracy Britt Cool, 34, chairs several Berkshire units and is chief executive of Pampered Chef.

Annual meeting attendance: 12 (1965), about 24 (1979), 1 000 (1986), 4 100 (1995), 7 700 (1997), 13 000 (2000), 21 000 (2005), 42 000 (2015, Buffett’s 50th anniversary), 42 000 (2018). 

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“Lose money for the firm, and I will be understanding. Lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless.”

Cough cough..Clayton homes…Looks like he oversees his own shortcomings.

End of comments.

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