A record of 30 years of holding company Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meetings, replete with insight into the minds of the company’s leaders.
Berkshire Hathaway chairman, president, and CEO Warren Buffett, known as the “Oracle of Omaha,” has become a near-mythical figure in the world of investing, an exemplar of success, and a role model emulated by many. In his debut, investment adviser Pecaut, with his longtime business partner Wrenn, details every annual Berkshire Hathaway investor meeting since 1984. The book begins with a concise history of the company’s rise to dominance as it eventually amassed more than $500 billion in assets. The bulk of the book, though, is comprised of brief accounts of Buffet’s lectures and responses to questions from the crowd, as well as the perspective of his vice chairman, Charlie Munger. (As the meetings become more popular and longer, the notes expand as well.) Both Buffett and Munger share their insights into a broad spectrum of topics, sometimes going beyond financial matters to address politics and life in general. Buffett shares the central tenets of his value-investing philosophy, his thoughts on derivatives, his belief that inflation is largely a political phenomenon, and the reasons why the trade deficit is a bigger deal than a federal budget deficit. Buffett often delights in contradicting the academic notion of efficient (and therefore predictable) markets. Sometimes, it’s interesting to see where Buffett seemed to have it wrong; for example, he overestimated the fundamental health of the newspaper industry as well as China’s auto-industry business model. The book doubles as a memoir of sorts, as Pecaut recounts his own career arc, starting as a philosophy major at Harvard and becoming a lifetime student of investment strategy. This is a long book, and as one might expect, there’s a fair amount of redundancy; not every annual meeting offers an entirely novel set of issues to discuss. Also, because this is meant as a “curated collection of the best advice and insights Buffett and Munger have shared over the last three decades,” and not an exacting work of history, it would have made more sense if it were arranged thematically rather than chronologically. However, seasoned investors, as well as Buffett fans, will find plenty of value in this storehouse of financial counsel.
A rare view into the mind of Warren Buffett.