Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting

Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett looks over products in the busy convention center exhibit hall before the 2016 shareholders meeting.

Warren Buffett gets a chuckle out of the notion that attendance at annual Berkshire Hathaway meetings is rising along with his age.

The 88-year-old chief executive and chairman likened the draw — that is, shareholders coming because they don’t know how many more will spotlight Buffett and partner Charlie Munger — to a golden oldie band’s final tour.

“It’s close to the end, right?” the investment guru said of his longtime gig with 95-year-old Vice Chairman Munger. “We can get a lot of mileage out of that as long as it lasts.”

The longtime Berkshire Hathaway leader and local billionaire spoke to The World-Herald about the May shareholder activities that this year drew at least 40,000 people, and broke a couple of records.

Buffett said he still gets energized by the marathon six-hour question-and-answer sessions, and can’t get enough of the quips dished by friend and fellow financial whiz Munger.

He’s counting on another episode next year of that Warren and Charlie show, calling their stage time together his favorite part of the weekend. Increasingly, shareholders say they come to see the duo while the pair still is front and center. Buffett said he’s quite aware the time will come when one or both physically won’t be up to the task.

“I hope it’s far off, I’ll put it that way.”

Though he has “cut back a little” on appearances, Buffett described a packed weekend extending beyond Saturday’s official business to friend and family parties, the shopping and vendor extravaganza, Sunday dinner at Gorat’s steakhouse and other side events.

He believes Berkshire loyalists, local and global, look forward to the walking-talking mascots, picnics and pingpong champions, as well as Berkshire companies’ unveiling styles of furniture, shoes, diamond bracelets.

Indeed, his biggest fear is losing his voice before the long weekend is over, from talking more and louder than usual.

“That’s the one thing I get terrified about,” Buffett said. “It’s been close a few times.”

Here are signs of growth, even as shareholders for the last four years also have had the option of livestreaming the meeting. Yahoo Finance before this year’s meeting reported the number of streams has grown from 11.5 million in 2016 and 17 million in 2017 to 35 million in 2018.

  • The number of Omaha hotel rooms occupied during the long weekend went up over last year by more than 3 percent. On both Friday and Saturday, more than 90 percent of the rooms in the city were full, according to travel research firm STR Inc., which tracks hotel trends and data for the local convention and visitors bureau.
  • Twice as many annual meeting tickets were mailed to shareholders this year compared with 10 years ago. New in recent years is the two-for-$5 ticket offer on eBay, which Buffett said was started only because people had been scalping tickets. About 4,250 tickets were sold this year pursuant to the eBay offer.
  • The number of Friday shoppers at the CHI Health Center, where dozens of Berkshire companies sell or show wares, rose from 13,111 in 2015 to this year’s record 16,188.
  • Online room-sharing service Airbnb did not have final stats for this year, but officials believe 2019 will represent a surge over the previous Berkshire investors conference. Airbnb said that last year, hosts earned a total of about $250,000 for lodging more than 1,300 guests during the weekend of Berkshire’s meeting and the University of Nebraska at Omaha graduation.
  • Eppley Airfield officials reported a 12 percent rise in the number of available airplane seats for Thursday through Monday of this year’s meeting, compared with a similar stretch last year, and a nearly 8 percent rise in the number of flights going in and out of Omaha.