Warren Buffett plans to make public a video archive of about 20 years of past Berkshire Hathaway Inc. shareholder meetings.
It’s a potential treasure trove for students, teachers and financial types interested in his ideas and history, said Louis Pol, business dean at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
“There’s a whole community of people throughout the world who are interested in investments and interested in Mr. Buffett’s philosophy,” Pol said.
Said Creighton University business dean Tony Hendrickson: “It would be really a great tool for faculty to be able to borrow things.”
The World-Herald asked the deans about the possible video archive after Buffett’s office confirmed that there is a plan in the works but said it’s “not fully formulated.”
Until 2016, shareholders had to come to Omaha in person to hear Buffett and his partner and vice chairman, Charlie Munger, answer questions and discuss business and, often, life in general.
Audience members still are prohibited from making video or audio recordings of the meeting’s five-plus-hour question-and-answer sessions, the main attraction for the crowds of attendees that eventually topped 30,000.
In 2016, Buffett enlisted Yahoo Finance to livestream the meeting over the Internet, repeating that arrangement last year and planning the same procedure at this year’s meeting on May 5. Replays of the 2016 and 2017 meetings are readily available on Yahoo’s website.
But the previous 1,000 or so hours of videotaped meeting comments by Buffett and Munger remain hidden from public view. Berkshire hired a crew from Omaha’s Dog & Pony Productions starting in 1994 to record the Q&A sessions.
Making the videos public is in line with Buffett’s effort to teach people — his shareholders, business students and anyone else who cares to listen — about his ideas on investing, business conduct and other topics.
The Berkshire meetings are unique.
Most corporate shareholder sessions simply meet legal requirements for publicly traded businesses and rarely offer insights into workings of the companies and the people who run them. There’s little interaction between CEOs and shareholders.
By contrast, Berkshire opens the floor for hours of direct questions by shareholders, journalists and financial analysts, all unscripted and often resulting in frank, funny and sometimes controversial responses from Buffett and Munger.
Buffett, who was not available to comment for this story, has said he loves teaching. He invites hundreds of college students to Omaha each year to learn from him directly about business.
The annual letters he writes to shareholders also serve as a form of instruction, going beyond the basic financial disclosures and into a wide range of topics.
The letters, which have been compiled into separate volumes and indexed, can serve as a primer for investment newcomers, a reference book for financial professionals and even a textbook for college courses.
Videotaping the meetings began in 1994 at the Orpheum Theater, when Buffett wanted to show a video on a screen and agreed to have a camera pointed at him and Munger so the audience could see them better, said Mike Gilstrap, Dog & Pony’s president and founder.
Gilstrap recently updated the past recordings from early technology — magnetic tapes, VHS cassettes, DVDs — to modern digital standards, turning copies over to Berkshire.
Gilstrap said the early recordings were intended more as a resource in case something was said at the meeting that needed checking. Eventually the historic nature of the Buffett and Munger discussions became obvious.
“It’s important to save all the videos for the future,” Gilstrap said.
The Omaha business deans said the videos would be especially useful if the contents can be indexed, easily searched and excerpted for replay.
For example, Pol said, people could study how Buffett’s investment strategy has evolved over the years, based on comments at successive meetings.
“It would help educate, provide a platform so that students could see real comments that were made in the past,” Hendrickson said. Professors could pull out sound bites of Munger and Buffett discussing specific topics being studied in class.
“Oftentimes you sit through a Berkshire meeting and you think, ‘It’s a great meeting, but I’d really love to have that 40-second sound bite where Charlie Munger said this,’ ” Hendrickson said.
He likened the opportunity to watch videos of Buffett and Munger to seeing the movie clip of President John F. Kennedy making his “ask not what your country can do for you” inauguration speech.
People can read about things Buffett said at a past meeting, Hendrickson said, “but it’s always more powerful to see it firsthand.”
Correction: Mike Gilstrap’s name was misspelled on a previous version of this story.(tncms-asset)dfadd03c-20a6-11e8-90ad-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)