A visit to the Buffett buffet

If you’ve wondered what the Berkhshire Hathaway annual meeting is like – from parties to steakhouses to sightseeing in Omaha to asking “the Oracle” a question, Mattathias Schwartz offers a first-timer’s view of the pilgrimage to capitalism in the January 2010 Harper’s Magazine.

“The Church of Warren Buffett” (online access limited to subscribers) is an entertaining, if somewhat cynical, look at the phenomenon of BRK and its loyal shareholders – though it falls short of real insight into either Buffett’s investing approach or the relationship of the company with its investors.

I won’t spoil it for you, except for this taste, a quote from the Berkshire Hathaway Owner’s Manual, a 1996 manifesto of Buffett and Charlie Munger’s philosophy of shareownership that the company still offers on its home page:

Charlie and I hope that you do not think of yourself as merely owning a piece of paper whose price wiggles around daily and that is a candidate for sale when some economic or political event makes you nervous. We hope you instead visualize yourself as a part owner of a business that you expect to stay with indefinitely, much as you might if you owned a farm or apartment house in partnership with members of your family. For our part, we do not view Berkshire shareholders as faceless members of an ever-shifting crowd, but rather as co-venturers who have entrusted their funds to us for what may well turn out to be the remainder of their lives.

Now that’s targeting long-term investors. More CEOs could express those feelings.

This year’s Berkshire meeting will be Saturday May 1, with parties all weekend. But you can save the plane fare to Omaha, and the cost of BRK.A or BRK.B shares, by picking up the magazine. Or just spend an hour exploring Berkshire’s website. Ultra-plain in presentation, matching the cultivated down-home-ness of Buffett himself, the site offers a wealth of interesting reading and philosophy on investors.

© 2010 Johnson Strategic Communications Inc.

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