Buffett Discusses Losses, Future at Somber Meeting

Berkshire's first gathering since Charlie Munger's death includes succession details
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2024 10:00 AM CDT
Buffett Discusses Losses, Future at Somber Meeting
Berkshire Hathaway shareholders pose with cutouts of Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett on Friday in Omaha.   (AP Photo/Josh Funk)

Warren Buffett discussed investments, as usual, in his remarks to Berkshire Hathaway's annual shareholder meeting in Omaha on Saturday. But he also referenced another type of loss, as well as his own mortality, in the first gathering of the company's investors since the death last fall at 99 of longtime business partner Charlie Munger. Topics covered include:

  • Apple: Shareholders learned they'd sold 13% of their stake in the company in the first quarter, the Wall Street Journal reports. Buffett reassured the crowd that he's still big on Apple, though the value of Berkshire's stake fell 22% by the end of March, per Yahoo Finance. The chairman and chief executive said tax reasons are behind the sale; Apple shares jumped 48% last year. He pointed out that Tim Cook, the company's chief executive, was in the arena.

  • Paramount Global: Buffett was less reassuring about this stock, saying it's all gone. "It was 100% my decision, and we've sold it all and we lost quite a bit of money," he said, per CNBC. Filings show Berkshire Hathaway owned 63.3 million shares at the end of 2023. Paramount has been involved in off-and-on merger negotiations.
  • The vice chairman: Buffett said Munger remained curious to the end. "Like his hero Ben Franklin, Charlie wanted to understand everything," Buffett said, per the AP. And he praised Munger as unceasingly honest in work and life. "When you get that in your life, you cherish those people and you sort of forget about the rest," Buffett said. He said that he consulted other people when making decisions but that "there wasn't anybody better in the world to talk to for many, many decades than Charlie." The arena was shown a video tribute that included a selection of Munger quotes, such as, "If people weren't so often wrong, we wouldn't be so rich." When it ended, investors gave the man Buffett called "the architect of Berkshire Hathaway" a long standing ovation.

  • Next generation: Investors already knew Greg Abel will become the boss, but Buffett tweaked the succession plan. He had said that investment managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler would take over the portfolio. Buffett has now shifted that responsibility to Abel, who sat with him onstage. Abel "understands business extremely well," Buffett said, per the Journal, adding that "if you really know how business works you are an investment manager."
  • Buffett's future: "We'll see how the next management plays the game out at Berkshire, [but] fortunately you don't have too long to wait on that," Buffett told the crowd. He said he still feels up to doing his job while acknowledging the reality of being 93. "I know a little about actuarial tables," he said. Buffett drew applause with his closing line: "I not only hope that you come next year but I hope that I come next year."
(More Warren Buffett stories.)

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