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Why Berkshire Hathaway shareholders are lining up at 2 a.m. to see Warren Buffett speak

It was a little after 4 a.m. Central Time when I arrived at CHI Health Center Arena in Omaha on a cold, rainy Saturday morning. I was late, for several hundred people. The people I spoke to in the front row had been there since 2 a.m.

That’s what happens every year at the shareholders’ meeting of Berkshire Hathaway, the $826 billion conglomerate run by the Oracle of Omaha himself, Warren Buffett. By the time the doors opened at 7 a.m., shareholders were lining up by the tens of thousands, some dressed in comfortable outerwear, others clinging to free coffee provided by the Pilot truck stop chain, a subsidiary of Berkshire.

Every year, Buffett spends hours answering shareholder questions, answering each one at length with his characteristic blend of investment acumen and warm Midwestern wit. CNBC covers every word he says, and we financial journalists are listening to investors everywhere, hoping to glean some wisdom from the legendary investor.

As I walked the streets outside the arena on Saturday, I began to wonder why some of these people flew halfway around the world and showed up as early as 2 a.m. in the cold to see an event they could film in crystal clear 4K at home. .

So I asked. Here’s what they said, edited for brevity and clarity.

Why thousands are lining up to see Buffett in person

James F. Eddins, Fairhope, Alabama: When you’re live and you’re here, you can see them in their element. And you can experience it all like this: stay here and meet people every year, and sometimes year after year. And you make a lot of friends here with the same mindset: They want to learn from the best investor ever.

Walter Chang, Taipei, Taiwan: I love coming here and seeing them in person, and it’s like going to a conference and benefiting from Graham and Dodd’s value investing, and also buying a company at a fair price. (I try to come) every year, and it’s amazing to see Warren and Charlie at this reunion.

Matt McAllister, Fairhope, Alabama: Omaha is a great place. The people are very funny. I think you absorb meeting content very differently in person versus watching it on a screen at home.

Jason Garner, Oakville, Canada: I think the most important thing that comes to mind is the people who all come, who you meet in the queue, who you then meet in the bars. That’s what really makes the difference. Because of course you can just watch the stream. I think like in-person work, it’s the same thing. You will be able to discover some smaller details when you are here in person.

James Hunt, South Africa: It’s the human-to-human connection with people like this. It’s fun being together.

Nathan Prottsman, Omaha, Nebraska: It’s just a great event here in Omaha. And it’s always worth the detour. We will miss Charlie (Munger) this year. But just when they communicate, they summarize micro and macroeconomics in a very understandable way. And their conservative views on investing – that attracts a lot of people and it’s just fun to be a part of it and to be here.

Barbara Govan, Houston, Texas: I wanted to have a real experience. And I wanted to come, because I had missed coming when Charlie Munger was alive. And I wanted to see Warren Buffett in person.

Yuan Fang, Dublin, Ireland: We come with the whole family. Warren Buffett is the one who changed our lives. When my husband was in college, he stuck to Warren Buffett’s methods and has stuck with them his entire life. Then we created our fund company and achieved something. So we appreciate what Warren Buffett has given us.

Tom Keady, New Market, Maryland: It’s more of an immersive experience. (My son) is only 11 years old. In the classroom, you don’t get that kind of immersive experience. We can sit behind a computer like he did during the pandemic. Or you can come here, see Warren Buffett in person and just enjoy the conference. That’s really the point here.

Giuliano Guarino, Milan, Italy: It’s completely different. You can feel it. You become part of a community when you come here. The feeling is always the same: like-minded people. It’s like being in a church, to be honest. I want (my children) to be exposed to all these things from a young age. They are small shareholders of Berkshire. It’s fantastic to come with family.

Eleanor Abney, Hayden and Parker McIntosh, ages 9 to 12, Louisville, Kentucky: This is a special learning experience for us.

I think it’s exciting, because you can stand in the cold for two hours – it’s really fun.

It’s really fun: you get to hear people in person. Sometimes we also meet famous people. And we got to see Charlie Munger speak before he died.

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