The ‘single biggest takeaway’ from Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholder meeting: top Buffett watcher

Ines Ferré
Markets Reporter

The marathon performance of Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRK-ABRK-B) Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett during the company’s annual shareholder meeting over the weekend drew accolades from one longtime Buffett watcher.

“The single biggest takeaway from the meeting for me was, we just watched an 89-year-old man go for four and a half hours. And I don't know about you guys, but I'm exhausted just trying to follow four and a half hours and pay attention,” former hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson told Yahoo Finance.

Buffett made a case laced with history, showing how America perseveres in the face of challenges — as the country faces the COVID-19 pandemic. “Never bet against America,” Buffett said during the meeting. He went on to present Berkshire’s financial results and answered a slew of shareholder questions submitted via email. The topics ranged from Berkshire’s recent sale of its airlines stake to advice against using credit cards.

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett walks through the exhibit hall as shareholders gather to hear from the billionaire investor at Berkshire Hathaway Inc's annual shareholder meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S., May 4, 2019. REUTERS/Scott Morgan

“It's incredible that a guy at that age has that kind of mental stamina, just forget the physical stamina, “ said Tilson. “As a longterm Berkshire Hathaway shareholder, the thing you really have to worry about is Buffett's cognitive decline. And, I didn't see any of it.”

Much has been discussed over the years about who will succeed Buffett. The “Oracle of Omaha,” who turns 90 in August, has someone in mind, but said his own health is as good as ever. “I just had two different doctors tell me I'm in much better shape than I was a few years ago,” Buffett recently told Yahoo Finance’s editor-in-chief Andy Serwer.

“If you play a recording of the annual meeting from five years ago versus today, I could not tell you which was which,” said Tilson. “I'm not seeing any decline at all. So that's really important.”

This year’s shareholder meeting was held in a virtual format as most states are still under shelter-in-place measures due to COVID-19. Shareholders were not present at the meeting this year, nor was Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, who normally shares the stage with Buffett.

Source: Yahoo Finance/David Foster

“It doesn’t feel exactly like an annual meeting, and it particularly doesn't feel like an annual meeting because, my partner of 60 years, Charlie Munger is not sitting up here,” said Buffett.

“I want to assure you, Charlie at 96 is in fine shape. His mind is as good as ever. His voice is as strong as ever, but it just didn't seem like a good idea to have him make the trip to Omaha for this meeting,” he added.

Buffett shared the stage on Saturday with Greg Abel, vice-chairman of the non-insurance operations of Berkshire Hathaway.

On Saturday, Berkshire Hathaway posted its first quarter results for 2020, showing how the coronavirus affected its investments. The company’s management said in its regulatory filing, “As efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated in the second half of March and continued through April, most of our businesses were negatively affected, with the effects to date ranging from relatively minor to severe.”

Ines covers the U.S. stock market from the floor of the New York Exchange. Follow her on Twitter at @ines_ferre

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