Unlike most corporate and investment moguls, billionaire CEO Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway encourages wide-open shareholders' meetings that have been described as "Woodstock for Investors." This year's main concern among more than 30,000 participants, according to a Wall Street Journal blog, was how long Buffett will remain at the helm.
At 81, the Oracle of Omaha won't live forever. He insists a recent diagnosis of prostate cancer is a "nonissue" because of early discovery for treatment, and that he feels "terrific" and continues to "love what I do." Known for his self-deprecating humor, Buffett told stockholders, according to the Associated Press, "I may have a little less energy, but that may mean I do fewer dumb things."
Buffett's meetings might be open forums, but that doesn't mean they are tell-all events. Buffett told investors that Berkshire Hathaway's board has chosen his successor and two backups for when the time comes, but he did not identify them. He also said a $22 billion investment opportunity had been considered and declined, without providing details.
Despite his "less energy" joke, Buffett said he expects Berkshire Hathaway to add "hundreds of thousands" of jobs to the 270,000 now employed, regardless of whether he remains CEO or whether a successor takes over. He added a new CEO would lack his immediate name recognition and reputation, but Berkshire Hathaway will remain conservatively active with more than $40 billion available for investment decisions.
Shareholders were concerned mainly with their investment bottom lines. Media reports reflected no questions regarding the so-called Buffett Rule, supported by President Barack Obama but defeated in Congress by a Republican-led Senate filibuster, that would have enacted Buffett's stated view that millionaires should pay a higher share of taxes, or at least higher rates than their secretaries.