This weekend I’ll be travelling to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the 2015 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting.
Make sure to follow me on Twitter @Vintage_Value, because I’ll be live tweeting the entire weekend’s events!
This year’s meeting will be even bigger than ever.
2015 is the Golden Anniversary for the company, marking 50 years of Buffett and Munger leading what started out as textile manufacturer.
But the meeting hasn’t always been popular. Check out the timeline below for a history of its attendance:
1975-81: About a dozen people attended each year
1985: 250 people attended.
1986: Shareholders first began buying discount items at Berkshire-owned Nebraska Furniture Mart, with two shareholders paying $5,000 each for Oriental rugs that cost double the amount elsewhere.
1987: 450. Shareholders spent $40,000 at the Mart. Berkshire hired two buses for $100 to ferry shareholders to the furniture store. The meeting was held at Witherspoon Hall in the Joslyn Museum.
1989: 1,000 people attended. The meeting moved to the Orpheum Theater, which had a seating capacity of about 2,750. Mr. Buffett began to mention various Omaha hotels that shareholders could stay at.
1994: 2,750 people attended, slightly overrunning the seating capacity of the Orpheum. Berkshire set up an overflow room with audio and video equipment for extra people. It began displaying consumer products from Berkshire companies, selling 800lb of candy and 507 pairs of shoes. Mr. Buffett mentioned they were expecting a “large crowd” for the following year’s meeting.
1995: 3,200 people attended the meeting, which was moved to the Holiday Convention Center. Shareholders came from all states but Vermont. A Geico auto-insurance sales rep was added to the exhibition floor that year.
1996: 5,000 people attended, straining the capacity of the Holiday Convention Center. Mr. Buffett began exhorting shareholders to make their travel arrangements early. Gorat’s, a favorite steakhouse of the billionaire, opened for the first time to shareholders on a Sunday.
1997: Attendee count increased to 7,500 after Berkshire sold a new class of shares in 1996. The meeting moved to the Aksarben Coliseum. Gorat’s took 1,100 reservations that Sunday.
1998: With 11,000 attendees, Berkshire booked both the Aksarben Coliseum and the Holiday Convention Center. Mr. Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger divided their pre-meeting time between the two venues. They sold 4,000 ice-cream bars at the local Dairy Queen, another Berkshire company.
2000: The meeting moved to the Civic Auditorium in downtown Omaha because Aksarben was closing down. Berkshire switched the meeting day from a Monday to a Saturday to avoid traffic and parking snarls in the downtown area.
2004: Berkshire moved its meeting location to the brand-new Qwest center (now called the CenturyLink Center) in downtown Omaha, with 194,000 sq.ft of display space. After a shareholder vote, the meeting day was switched to Saturday permanently. Local bookstore The Bookworm, which sold Berkshire-related books at the event, did $61,000 worth of business.
2006-2008: The numbers kept growing from 24,000 people to 31,000.
2009: With 35,000 attendees, Mr. Buffett scrapped the reception he and Mr. Munger used to host for shareholders visiting from outside the U.S. and Canada. That year, there were 800 such visitors.
2010: 37,000 people come after Berkshire uses its stock to help buy railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and splits its Class B shares as part of the deal. Many newcomers are former BNSF shareholders, but the split also allows the company to join the S&P 500, another milestone that brings in new investors.
2014: Around 38,000 people are expected to attend the meeting at the CenturyLink Center. Mr. Buffett recommends online lodging site Airbnb to shareholders looking for lower-cost room and board in 2015.
2015: Marking the 50th anniversary of Buffett and Munger at the help of the company, this year’s meeting is expected to draw over 40,000 people to Omaha
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