Warren Buffett has long bestowed a special reward on Berkshire Hathaway shareholders who travel to Omaha from outside of the U.S. and Canada — a handshake at the company's annual meeting. But no longer. Berkshire Hathaway announced this week that the International Shareholders Meet & Greet Reception will not take place. They cited "escalating attendance and time constraints." A more likely cause is the finite supply of Buffett's own energy. After six hours of live riffing to a packed arena, who can expect him to sit down and shake several hundred hands? The man is pushing 80. And now that Berkshire's stock split has brought the price of a share down to around $75 from $3,000 last year, Omaha will probably draw more Buffett fans from abroad.
Though it might not make up for the diminished face time, 2010's meeting will offer visitors more Berkshire-approved steak to go around. Last year, the 35,000-strong crowd had to fight over a few gravy-colored chairs at Gorat's Steak House, Buffett's favorite. This year, Berkshire is adding another establishment, Piccolo Pete's — locally known as "Piccolo's" — to the Sunday-night agenda. "This restaurant was my grandfather's, my father's, my brother's, and now it's ours," said Donna Sheehan, who owns Piccolo's with her sister. "I think Warren likes family-oriented businesses. Gorat's is the same thing." Added Denny Graves, a manager: "He comes in every once in a while for dinner and a root beer float. He told us that maybe he'll be bringing some people down for dessert on Sunday." Gorat's will begin taking shareholder weekend reservations on April 1;
Piccolo's lines are open now.
[Shareholder Meeting Information via Reuters/NYT]
Related: Matt Schwartz's excellent story on the annual Buffettpalooza, The church of Warren Buffett:
Faith and fundamentals in Omaha [Harper's]