by DOUG NADVORNICK & r & & r & A Weekend with Warren Buffett & r & by Randy Cepuch & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & E & lt;/span & very year, on the first Saturday in May, about 20,000 people meet at an arena in Omaha, Nebraska. They're there to hear billionaire Warren Buffett, Omaha resident and Berkshire Hathaway chairman, at his company's required annual shareholder meeting. (Never heard of Berkshire Hathaway? It owns GEICO, Dairy Queen and other companies and holds significant shares of several other major corporations.)
Financial writer Randy Cepuch has long owned BH stock because he admires Buffett, a man he calls "the business world's equivalent of Captain Kangaroo -- smart, amusing, moral and beloved."
In the opening chapter, Cepuch takes us to one BH shareholder meeting, in which Buffett and his board quickly dispense with their business. Then "Buffett and [BH vice chair Charlie] Munger open a can of Sees peanut brittle and Buffett announces, 'We'll be here for six hours or until the candy runs out.'"
The "Wizard of Omaha" answers questions from his "partners," and offers advice when asked. When Buffett calls a halt to the proceedings, "I find myself simultaneously refreshed and exhausted," Cepuch writes. "What Buffett does must be quite rare. After all, how many top executives would really let people see the man behind the curtain, the way he's so willing to do?"
That's the premise that drives A Weekend with Warren Buffett and Other Shareholder Meeting Adventures. How well do companies treat their shareholders at their annual meetings?
Cepuch attended more than 50 of these gatherings. While Berkshire Hathaway is his favorite, Google, eBay and Bowl America get high marks too. So does Wal-Mart, where the business meeting is part pep rally: "Finally, the troops are dismissed and the non-employees are invited down to the stage to mingle with the executive team and ask questions," Cepuch writes. "I'm impressed at how thoughtfully the Wal-Mart bigwigs deal with problems large and small."
The stinkers on the list? Playboy, Disney and Microsoft, which features a bored Bill Gates and his "report on how he thinks Microsoft will change the world in the next twelve months ... full of geek hyperbole."
Cepuch's moral? If you own stocks, do your homework.