Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 24th 2015 Contents MAY 24 • 2015 www.guardian.co.tt SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN
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shoes (Berkshire 50th running shoes); Ori-
ental Trading (Warren & Charlie rubber ducks);
Fechheimer s (Buffett T shirts) and Coca Cola
(Berkshire Coke bottles). Imagine my lem-
ming-like voracity and multiply it by over
40,000 times; that s the magnitude of the
organism we re dealing with (Berkshire actually
now has over one million shareholders). I stag-
ger back to my room with my holy relics and
to prepare for tomorrow s marathon (with a
100 metre sprint in the middle of it).
the 3:30 am streets of Omaha are still dark
between the pools of orange light thrown on
the pavement by the streetlights.
Other figures wrapped up against the morn-
ing s chill are also walking in scurry-bursts
towards ground zero: the locked main doors
of the Century Link Centre. I find my place
in line; I m a coiled spring, already planning
my dash past the earlier birds in front, who
have had the gall to get between me and my
goal. The doors open at seven.
The line has an international flavour with
China, India and Europe (especially Germany)
particularly well represented. The crowd is
overwhelmingly Midwestern, polite and well
There is no queue jumping. At dawn, two
cowboys from Justin Boots (a Berkshire sub-
sidiary) come riding by on Texas Longhorns
followed by a Wells Fargo stagecoach with six
horses (Berkshire has a US$28 billion stake in
this bank). It is now coming up to seven: gen-
tlemen start your engines, the doors open and
we re off.
Saturday 8:30 am
I ve returned from the newspaper throwing
contest back to the arena floor. In front of me
the gorgeous Becky Quick of CNBC is talking
to Warren; Charlie Rose is in conversation
with Bill Gates. I am now in the room. No
video or audio has ever been permitted of this
scene. If you don t come in person you can t
pull it up on YouTube later.
We all have our pens and paper to capture
the wise and humorous words that will issue
from the greatest double act in business history:
Buffett and Munger. Warren, 84, the warm,
amusing, avuncular Democrat and Charlie,
91, the acerbic, witty Republican. Both business
In fact, both in the next seven hours bring
the crowd to uproarious laughter and applause
with their quick wit and funny asides, Warren
often setting it up for Charlie s dry zingers.
They ve been doing this for 50 years!
How much longer can they go on? I m like
a Stones fan who just wants to see them in
concert once more before Keith finally snuffs
it. The annual Berkshire movie follows with
Warren "The Berkshire Bomber" getting in
the ring against Floyd "Money" Mayweather
for the title with cameos by Jack Nicholson
and other Hollywood A listers.
Mayweather actually fights Paquiao tonight
in Vegas for the richest purse in boxing history.
Then the curtains part and the two starboys
come unto the stage and the real show begins.
They will answer approximately 50 unrehearsed
questions from the audience and several Wall
Nothing is off limits except what investments
Berkshire is thinking of making. It is a world
famous annual tour de force.
Here are some highlights:
Q: Should Berkshire have used leverage?
Charlie Munger: If we had used leverage we
would have been much bigger but we would
have sweated at night and it s crazy to sweat
Warren Buffett: Over financial things (laugh-
Q: How do you network without having
gone to a prominent business school?
CM: Let me answer this one. You do the
best you can (laughter). I didn t go to business
school, why should you? You were lucky to
avoid what you avoided (more laughter).
WB: Charlie s very Old Testament. He didn t
get past Genesis (even more laughter)
Q: Any thoughts on the new Asia Invest-
WB: No idea. (laughter) That s a subject I
know nothing about.
CM: I know less on that than you (laugh-
Q: What about the general level of the
CM: We don t make macroeconomic pro-
jections or try to predict where the stock mar-
ket is heading. We just swim and let the tide
take care of itself. The problem with making
these economic pronouncements is that even-
tually people think that they know what they
are talking about (laughter). It s much easier
to say I m ignorant.
WB: You can be sure that over the next 10
years you will see things that you didn t think
were possible and we will occasionally see
things that are good for Berkshire Hathaway
both financially and psychologically.
Q: What about China?
CM: I m a big fan of China s progress.
They ve actually shot a couple of people and
that gets people s attention (laughter).
WB: Now we re getting some practical advice
Q: What accounts for your success?
WB: We stay within the circle of our com-
CB: Much of our success has not been from
being brilliant but simply by avoiding being
idiots. (laughter). If people weren t so often
wrong, we wouldn t be so rich (more laugh-
Q: Berkshire is big on Coca Cola. Is all
that sugar good for you?
WB: 25 per cent of my daily calories come
from Coca Cola. I ve looked at the stats, six-
year-olds have the best life expectancy so I
copy their diet (laughter). If I was to eat broc-
coli, I d be miserable, I wouldn t have lived
this long. I much prefer Coke to some drink
on sale down at Whole Foods. They don t
smile a lot down at Whole Foods (laughter)
CM: Sugar is an enormously useful sub-
stance; it prevents premature softening of the
arteries (more laugher).
Q: What is your biggest failure?
WB: Dexter Shoes. In 1993 I paid US$400
million for an enterprise that soon dwindled
to zero. Nobody misled me, I simply misjudged.
It s even worse than that because I brought
it with Berkshire stock which is now worth
US$6-7 billion. In fact, I like it when our stock
goes down, it makes the stupidity seen smaller.
Q: Eurozone currency. Is the Euro a good
thing or bad?
CM: It s a noble motivation but a flawed
system to put countries that are so different
together. The big strains are Greece and Por-
tugal. You can t make a strong partnership
with your shiftless, drunken brother in law
(To Warren) Have I offended enough peo-
WB: I think there are still some more up
in the balconies (more laughter)
Q: What are your thoughts on activist
WB: The best defence against activism is
CM: I m trying to think of any activist I d
like to see marry into the family (laughter)
Q: What about economic forecasts?
WB: We think that any company that has
an economist has at least one employee too
many (laughter). Charlie, can you think of
anything more offensive that I ve forgotten?
CM: It would be hard to top that one.
Q: What matters to you the most?
CM: Your main duty is to become as rational
as you can possibly be. Rationality is a moral
duty. Berkshire Hathaway is a temple of ration-
ality. If you have easily removable ignorance
and keep it that s dishonourable; to stay stu-
pider than you have to be. I have never con-
sidered it enough of a life just to be shrewder
than others and accumulate money. You must
use it to help society, to help others.
Q: How do you get a lot of friends and
have people get to like you?
CM: The only way I got people to like me
was to get very rich and very generous.
WB: People will see a lot of virtues when
you write a cheque. Look at other people and
see why you admire them, and become the
qualities that you like.
Q: How do you pick a spouse?
CM: Look for someone with low expecta-
tions. (laughter) So when you disappoint each
other in some way, which is inevitable, then
it won t be so bad. And remember, instead of
trying to change your partner, change yourself.
It s much easier.
Q: Berkshire now is so big, how long can
it continue to grow?
WB: Size is its own anchor. The past rate
of increase of Berkshire cannot continue indef-
initely, it must inevitably come down.
CM: There are worse things than Berkshire
increasing at a slower rate.
WB: Name one
CM: Warren, I have one not too far away
The final grace note from a 91-year-old
man contemplating the coming end of a useful
and admired life. The crowd, was silent at first
and then, slowly a warm applause came which
continued to a crescendo. My eyes were already
wet from laughing; I don t think anybody
Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, right, speaks alongside vice chairman
Charlie Munger during an interview with Liz Claman on the Fox Business Network, in Omaha,
Nebraska, on Monday, May 4, 2015. The annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting took
place on May 2 in Omaha with more than 40,000 in attendance. AP
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