When Warren Buffett praises someone's work, people should take notice.
Larry Cunningham is the author of The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America. Buffett said of the book, "Larry Cunningham has done a great job at collating our philosophy."
Cunningham also contributed on The AIG Story, a book authored by former CEO Hank Greenberg, and he has a new book coming out this fall, titled Berkshire Beyond Buffett: The Enduring Value of Values. In the following audio recording, Motley Fool analyst David Hanson speaks with Cunningham about Buffett's sucession plans, what Berkshire Hathaway looks like post-Buffett, and which characteristics make Buffett's empire so successful.
A full transcript follows the recording.
David Hanson: Welcome, Fools. I'm David Hanson. Today I'm joined on the phone by Larry Cunningham. He is the author of The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America; also contributed on The AIG Story, a book that Hank Greenberg wrote; and he has a new book coming out this fall, titled Berkshire Beyond Buffett: The Enduring Value of Values. Larry, thanks for talking to us.
Larry Cunningham: It's a pleasure, David. Thank you.
Hanson: Can you just give us a quick, 30-second rundown of what the premise was for Berkshire Beyond Buffett, and why you decided to write the book?
Cunningham: Yes. The big question in the last couple of years has been what happens to Berkshire after Buffet is no longer around? That discussion seemed to intensify a couple of years ago, at the annual meeting.
I wanted to address that question head-on. After all, Warren has sought to create a company that is permanent and that extends beyond him, and yet even his greatest admirers doubt that it can survive his departure, so I wanted to address that question and investigate it. The book is the result of that investigation, which made the case that Berkshire can survive, and indeed thrive, without Warren, precisely because he has developed a corporate culture there that transcends any one individual.
Hanson: I should mention, it's due out for release in October, is that right? Before everyone's going and Googling to try to buy it right now; it's not out yet, but it's coming in a couple months, right?
Cunningham: That's right, but they're welcome to preorder it now! It's available on all your favorite sites, and preordering is encouraged. But it will be in your e-boxes or your mailboxes October 21.
Hanson: Great. I wanted to just get an overview of what the book was, and then hit on some more in-depth questions on the questions of succession; what happens after Buffett? Why is he doing things the way he's doing it?
The first one I had for you is what do you think the benefits, but also the disadvantages, are of Buffett keeping the succession plan so secretive? We hear a lot about the benefits, but what are those, and again what are some of the disadvantages of this?
Cunningham: I'd take a step back. I think it's a great question, but I'd take a step back on the question of succession plans for Buffett at Berkshire.
I think it's a little different than the typical succession plan at most companies, which is mostly just about identifying a capable senior manager who can assume executive duties. You see these days much talk at JPMorgan; who should succeed Jamie Dimon or, a couple decades ago, who should succeed Jack Welch at GE?
At Berkshire it's not as simple as, "Well, who should become the chief executive?" You've got to think about that role, the role of the investment officer, the role of the Chairman of the Board of Directors, the role of the controlling shareholder; so it's a much more complicated question. It's not just a personality. It's institution and culture.
In fact, the easiest parts are who the people will be. The harder question is, what's the institutional stability? What is the cultural continuity? Those are the real questions that I elaborate and answer in my new book.
I also spend a chapter on the people, just to break that down -- which I think is the easier thing. The Chief Executive Officer role will be split apart from the investment role, and Warren and the board have said that they would like to pick from an existing Berkshire executive officer, one of the heads of the subsidiaries.
In the book, I did a shareholder survey -- that The Motley Fool helped me do, actually -- and elicited suggestions from shareholders about who they would like to see in an executive role with Berkshire after Warren, and I got a dozen names that were identified scores of times. That's testimony to the deep bench, so that's relatively easy. There's at least a dozen people who could step in and become Chief Executive Officer.
The second function is the Investment Officer job, and Berkshire has hired two people; Ted Weschler and Todd Combs, within the past four or five years, who are being groomed to take over that job. Both of them are investing a portion -- a small portion -- but some part of the Berkshire portfolio now, so there's quite a clear level of transparency there, although they might add a third person.
The third job is Chairman of the Board of Directors, and here Warren has said that he'd prefer to have a member of the Buffett family. People think that he's referring to Howard, his eldest son. That job would be to sustain the cultural heritage and assure that the policies that have been put into place are maintained.
I think that that succession plan is actually more clearly spelled out than at many companies.
The fourth thing is the controlling shareholder piece. Buffett had been the substantial shareholder at Berkshire since 1965. He owns now about 23% of the economic power, 34% the voting power. That's the real pivot, and the plan for that is pretty well detailed.
It's not widely understood -- I detail it fairly extensively in Chapter 13 of the new book -- whereby his shares, after he passes, will be distributed gradually over a period of up to 10 or 12 years to foundations, including those of his children and those of the Gates.
That will take a very long time to distribute and be sold, so there not an automatic moment, a cliff, where one minute you have Warren the controlling shareholder and the next minute you don't. Instead, you have executors of his estate who will be carrying out his instructions and very gradually sharing the ownership with the fluid market. That's a really important piece.
So you've got CEO, CIO, Chairman of the Board, controlling shareholder. The fifth piece, which I think is absolutely the most important, is what is the culture like? How will this place continue after him?
That's, I think, the most important part of the succession plan at Berkshire, and that's really what I spend most of the time on in this new book, Berkshire Beyond Buffett, because there's a set of values there that hold the subsidiaries together, that turn a diverse group of companies into a single organizational force, and it has a logic and a coherence that will be a force, whether Warren is in charge of all those positions or those positions are shared by those other people.
The succession plan is far more elaborate than is widely appreciated, and that's one reason I wrote this book. To me, David, I think it's almost all advantages; the approach that's taken to the plan. I guess the one caveat that I would make, the disadvantage part of your question, is that the company hasn't elaborated the plan in the way that I just have.
Warren repeatedly refers to the Berkshire culture, and assures people that, "If I get hit by a truck, GEICO won't miss a beat." That's all true, but I think what hadn't been explained or elaborated is, what is it about that culture? That's the main thing I try to do in this book.
Hanson: It almost sounds like the CEO part of that; the operator part of those five parts, is something we could look back on in 20 years, after Buffett is ... potentially gone -- he may still be around in 20 years -- but if he is gone, it may be something where we look back and say, "Hey, it really wasn't that big of a deal to replace Warren Buffett in that role, or it wasn't as monumental as everyone's building it up to be," because they have communicated the CIO role, the Chairman role, a little bit more than the CEO role. So, maybe we're making a little too much of it. I don't know.
Cunningham: Yes, I think so. I think it's enormous shoes -- we want to stress that -- and as you say, he's totally healthy, so we may have this conversation in 10 or 20 years. But I agree.
Look, people have intensified this discussion because when iconic leaders leave companies it's very common for the company to radically change; so it's a fair question to look at. But my impression? I share yours. I think it might turn out that the plan has been so much more careful than is widely known, that it will turn out to be far less important than many people think or fear.
Hanson: Right. I'm not going to ask you to make any predictions on who you think is going to be the replacement in the CEO role, but to me it seems like who those speculative candidates have been over the years ... it's changed, even in the last five years. Now we're hearing names like Matt Rose, Greg Abel. That's what everyone's guessing, is maybe one of those guys is the person to step in.
But if you go back 5 or so years, 10 years, everyone is saying, "Oh, it's going to be Ajit Jain. That's who it's going to be." What do you think the chances are that the picture looks completely different in another 5 years, another 10 years? Is it possible that Berkshire makes another big acquisition and someone completely new comes into the fold and changes what that succession plan looks like?
Cunningham: Right. I think it is as likely as not, to change. You're absolutely right about that. If you look back 20 years, the formal plan was that Charlie Munger would succeed Warren as the Chief Executive Officer and Lou Simpson, who was the Investment Head at GEICO, would succeed him on the investment side -- and both of those guys grew old, waiting!
Charlie's still there as Vice Chairman, but he's not suited to be a successor, at 90, and Lou Simpson retired 12 or 15 years ago.
At that stage, the new commonly identified successors were David Sokol, who ran MidAmerican Energy at the time for 12 years, and Rick Santulli, who founded and then ran NetJets for a long time. They were seen as the heirs apparent, and there's a bit of a drama there. I recount a dramatic encounter between those two fellows, when they were seen that way, and they both left. Both resigned from the company in complex, controversial circumstances.
Now Matt, as you say, and Greg, and Ajit is named often, Frank (Ptak) at the Marmon Group, and quite a few others. Right now, it might be that if the truck were to hit today, the perfect person would be Matt or Greg.
But you're right that, in a year from now or two, the circumstances of the need -- exactly how it happens, exactly when it happens, what's going on with the company -- might warrant a different person; Doris Christopher, or Bruce Whitman for heaven's sake, or any one of the people on the deep bench.
I think it's absolutely true that you could see a different group, a different top two or three or four, next year or the year after, or in 10. That's, incidentally, another advantage -- to go back to your first question -- of not naming names as an official matter from the board room or from the executive suite, is that it does change, and it's probably better not to anoint someone, especially at a company like Berkshire where there are scores of operating subsidiaries headed by such capable people with heavy decentralization.
To name one of them ahead of time wouldn't be productive, and could have some negative effects. I think the case with Santulli and Sokol, that I describe in the book, is an example of that. It might have been better for Berkshire if neither of them thought -- or other people didn't think -- that they were the heirs apparent.
Hanson: Right, and you mentioned the "scores" of operating businesses at Berkshire Hathaway. One of the most underappreciated and under-covered aspects of Berkshire, in my opinion, over the last 5-10 years, has been the shift to a collection of operating businesses, rather than just a collection of stocks.
You and I were both at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting this year, and there were essentially no questions or discussions about the stock portfolio. It's kind of just in the background now, and the whole discussion is the collection of businesses.
My question to you is, do you think Buffett has transformed the company in that way to prepare it to live on after him? Or is it because that's the right move, regardless? Say he was only 50 years old; do you think he would still have this focus on operating businesses, rather than buying equities?
Cunningham: I think it's a great question, and I think there's an answer to it in my book. When I asked Warren who I should ask to write the forward to Berkshire Beyond Buffett, he instantly said, "Tom Murphy." Tom is the legendary executive who built up Capital Cities/ABC and ran it so successfully for years. It's a position Berkshire owned a big piece of, and invested in before it was acquired by Walt Disney Company.
I asked Warren, "Why Tom? Why do you suggest Tom?"
He said, "Tom is the manager that I have tried to emulate myself after."
I said, "Wow. That's fascinating. Does he know that?"
Warren joked that, "No, Tom will probably deny it," but he said later -- following up in correspondence for the book, he added this statement that I quote right in the beginning. He said, "Everything I know about management, I learned from Tom Murphy, and I only kick myself that I learned it too late."
What he's saying is, this shift that you describe, in some ways it's a natural shift, and in some ways it fortuitously prepares the company, I think, for life beyond him. But what he's saying in that conversation is, "In my double-barreled approach to investing, I might have done better with more Murphy and less Graham, or at least I could have gotten in there sooner, buying these companies."
Tom's operating principles include those that you see at Berkshire; decentralization, enormous managerial autonomy, generous latitude, compensation programs. It's just a very healthy culture, so I think it just worked out this way fortuitously. But it will, I think, serve the shareholders, the continuing participants in Berkshire, well over many years to come.
Hanson: As you were researching your book and talking to the various subsidiaries, the various operating businesses under Berkshire's umbrella, was there one that you saw as a crown jewel, as, "If this was a public company, I would love to own shares of just this operating business" -- was there one that stuck out to you a little bit more than others for having great values, but also just a great business?
Cunningham: Well, my wife would say Borsheims if she were here!
But with me, I profile 50 of them, and a deep dive on every one of them. Each one of them has its own fascination, its own appeal, its own attractiveness; whether it's a colorful founder or an innovative product or an entrepreneurial approach or a certain way of treating customers. So, I couldn't name one, because they're all wonderful and appealing.
What I've done in the book, and this is how I thought about it, was that there are clusters of companies that most exemplify particular traits. One of the traits I explore in the book is thrift, or budget consciousness, and GEICO epitomizes that. They are cost-cutters extraordinaire, and then they share all of the savings that they generate with their customers.
I like MidAmerican Energy for its acquisitiveness, and the way that it is very savvy at investing and allocating capital. I like BNSF because of its sense of permanence and long time horizons; it buys equipment that is expected to last for up to 50 years.
So, no; the collection is the thing. But I wouldn't turn away any of them! They're all terrific companies.
That said, there are a few that struggle. There are a few that have thin profit margins. There are some that have low returns on capital and need to correct that, so I prefer the way that it is. I like the big collection, the big gallery of businesses, rather than taking one off at a time.
Hanson: If there's Berkshire shareholders -- and I'm one myself -- anyone listening to us is probably nodding their head, saying, "OK, this sounds good. This makes me feel good as a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder."
I'm going to push back on it a little bit. If Buffett leaving -- stepping down or not being involved in the picture anymore -- is not necessarily a big risk, what is the one thing that keeps you up at night a little bit, that you worry about Berkshire Hathaway going forward? As a shareholder, which I'm assuming you are, what are you worried about?
Cunningham: Yes, I am a shareholder. I have some Class A and some Class B for a pretty long time. With Buffett around, I've got very little worries, other than the extraordinary; some unprecedented insurance event -- a terrorist attack or some disaster like that that could really drain a lot of capital.
But what I worry about, really, is what I wrote this book about, which is what happens after? Here, the scenario to worry about, and I've got a whole section of the book on this, is that afterwards you'll have some activist shareholders who have a very different idea about what should happen at Berkshire.
They'll have ideas about, "Let's make the dividend policy more generous. Let's abandon the old Buffett test of retaining a dollar of earnings so long as you increase market value by that amount, and start being more generous in dividends. Let's not have a commitment to hold every subsidiary forever, but let's start selling some of those that aren't performing as well. Let's put a minimum return on capital in for everybody, and if you're not making that, we sell the company."
Others might advocate for dividing the company into divisions; have an energy company over here, and spin off the retail businesses, spin off the manufacturing businesses. So, you might get people; Carl Icahn or Nelson Peltz, or even Bill Ackman for heaven sakes, who say, "It would be better to break this up or sell a subsidiary," and so on.
Now, against that group will be the stalwarts, the old-fashioned devotees of the Berkshire traditions who say, "This is a disastrous idea," and I'd be in that group. One of the most important things that makes Berkshire special is its commitment to permanence; that when Berkshire acquires a subsidiary, it's forever. We don't sell subsidiaries that are struggling, that need some time to repair and improve. We don't do that.
If someone began to do that, it would destroy one of the most important special cultural features of the place, which is this long-term time horizon. If you did that, it would just be like United Technologies, or Danaher, or Level 3 -- United Technologies, General Electric -- just another good company, but not as distinctive, not as special. It wouldn't have this advantage in acquisitions, and so on.
That's the thing that I worry about, and I explore it in the book, in a thought experiment about how that kind of debate might play out; where the power in the shareholder body would reside, and I entertain some alternative scenarios.
My bottom line is that I can imagine the agitation, but I don't think it will succeed. So long as the leadership of the company embraces these traditional notions and traditional values, and are interested in sustaining this culture, then they will be able to do it. But that's the thing that I'll worry about, as a shareholder.
Hanson: You hear the arguments that "Berkshire could be worth more if we split it apart; it's hard to value in its current form." On the structure of Berkshire and how Buffett built that partnership, there was a question at the annual meeting this year that said, "Why has no one else done this?"
Do you think other companies should try to structure themselves like Berkshire, or is it so unique with someone like Buffett and Munger at the top that it almost shouldn't be replicated because most people wouldn't have the discipline and the values to run it in a good way?
Cunningham: That's a great question. I would have two observations on that.
One is, it's true. The first sentence of the book is, "Berkshire Hathaway is an accident." No one planned it out. Warren didn't plan it this way, Charlie didn't plan it this way. There was never any planning. So, for a person who sat down today and said, "Let me start a company. Let me follow this approach," I'm not sure that that will work because, right away, you're not following that approach, because you're planning it that way. This was not planned. This just happened.
What was true, though, is that they had a set of values and a set of principles and a cultural appetite that resulted in a collection of companies of the sort that we see. To that extent, emulating the values, embracing the principles, seeing how they can work, could be quite useful.
In fact, in the last chapter of the book I draw out some of the business lessons, management lessons, investment lessons, entrepreneurial lessons from the 50 subsidiaries, and show how these values are enormously appealing and profitable. So you don't need to say, "I'd like to build a Berkshire" to learn and gain from the message, from the content.
The second observation I would make is that it's not entirely true that there isn't anything else like this. There are actually quite a few people who have sat down and consciously decided, "I'm going to follow this."
My favorite example I mentioned in the book is the Markel Corporation, out of Richmond, Virginia nearby The Motley Fool, where Tom Gayner, the President and Chief Investment Officer, bought for that company Berkshire stock in 1995 and has increased the position significantly.
That company -- it's a third-generation insurance company primarily -- but since about that time it has also acquired about a dozen, maybe a little more, operating companies in a variety of industries; manufacturing, business services, and other things. It's got a lot of similarities to the Berkshire approach, including the most important, which is a sense of permanence. They have made a commitment to their subsidiaries that they're never going to sell them, either. I applaud Tom and Markel.
I, myself, I don't think I would do that, necessarily -- sit down and say, "I'm going to build something just like that" -- because I do think the personality matters, and your own stamp is going to go on your business, and so on. But a lot of the values and a lot of the attributes associated with these businesses are appealing, intrinsically, to me, and I think to many people.
The book also showed that they're also profitable. That's the sense of the subtitle, The Value of Values. So, I wouldn't say anybody should say, "I want to build the next Berkshire," but to get -- from these operating companies especially, some of the sense of entrepreneurship, loyalty, integrity, vision, and so on -- could be enormously valuable for people, I think.
Hanson: Moving from Berkshire, which has had that long history and permanence of the values, to a company that had a long history of a strong culture, strong values, but then saw that all wash away in late 2008/2007 -- and that's AIG.
I mentioned at the top that you worked on the book The AIG Story, with Hank Greenberg, the former CEO of AIG. In that book, you detailed how AIG was turned into this world-class insurance company, and then after Mr. Greenberg left it fell into some very bad habits, which led to the bailout, etc.
I just wanted to get your quick thoughts on where AIG is today and -- we've been talking about leadership our whole conversation here -- Robert Benmosche came in as the AIG CEO, out of retirement, to turn the ship around. It's now been announced that he's leaving later this year and going back to being retired; what did you think of his time at AIG?
Cunningham: I think he did exactly what he was called upon to do. He's a great man. I met him and I interviewed him for The AIG Story book. Hank Greenberg helped recruit him back. Tim Geithner asked Hank, "Who should we recruit to lead this company through this difficult time?"
Hank endorsed Bob, and I think his job was to stabilize an institution in trouble, that had been through the bailout wringer and had the devastating derivative losses that preceded that.
The cultural upheaval that occurred when Hank Greenberg resigned -- under pressure from investigators over some accounting peculiarities that turned out to be far less than they were made out to be -- but there was a huge upheaval at that company after Hank left, after derivatives exploded, and after the government bailed them out, that Bob was asked to try to corral, control, and stabilize. And he did that.
It's a very different company now. A part of what he did was sell off a lot of different assets, including some very valuable businesses that had been built up over 20-30 years across Asia. I think he did the job he was recruited to do, which was really to make that company a stodgier company, a trimmer company. I think he deserves a lot of credit for that. He leaves it much stronger than he found it, and he probably deserves the retirement. I think he's going back to Croatia now.
Hanson: How do you think investors and shareholders should monitor that culture, and the values at a company like AIG? At Berkshire we can have confidence that the values that have been there for so long are going to be there in the future.
But with a company like AIG, that had a transformation in values -- and they appear to be back on the right track -- but how would you, personally, monitor that going forward? Would it be listening to management, or would it be through the numbers; are they writing good insurance? How would you weigh those two things?
Cunningham: Traditionally, AIG's culture was, under Hank Greenberg and C.V. Starr before him, back to the '50s and '60s was focused on underwriting profit. That was how they measured everything. At Berkshire, its float is the principle measurement of operational success on the insurance side. At AIG, it was all about underwriting profits.
That meant a disciplined assessment of risk, and underwriting policies only when you were making money. But that also meant that the company went out and pitched business and created products and developed new lines of insurance, opened markets in 130 countries. It was a very adventuresome, internationalist, ambitious, bold kind of leadership and culture that pervaded it.
It was very easy to see, in the numbers, in how the underwriting profit went, and in the growth and stability. With all the upheaval after Hank left, and the London trades blew the place up and the government came in to rescue it in some ways, but basically lend it enormous amounts of money that it had to repay by selling businesses -- it was a very different place. Those expansive attitudes I think have been eclipsed, been cut back substantially, so now you've got a stodgy insurance company.
I think the new leadership will have to figure out, is it the new AIG or the old AIG? They really did make a big change. It's symbolic; they changed the logo. It's a new AIG.
I think the insurance analysts and followers and shareholders will be very interested to see, is this a company that's going to be a stodgier kind of place, or the more expansionary place?
To your question, I think you look at the qualitative and the quantitative. You listen to the notes that management is sounding, what they're telling us, and then how it shows up in the numbers, both on underwriting profit, size of float, growth in float, and then growth in markets. Are they going to regrow in the Philippines or Taiwan, East Asia, and make China their home again, or not?
That's a very big, dynamic story. I'm sort of in suspension on that. I don't have a strong opinion about what direction that company's going to take. I used to own AIG stock. I don't anymore.
Hanson: If you had to pick one person completely unrelated to Berkshire Hathaway today, to step into Buffett's shoes, who are you going with?
Cunningham: David, that's a great question. Bob Iger.
Cunningham: The Chairman and CEO of Walt Disney. He embraces the Berkshire values, almost straight down the line. The thing about Bob is that he grew up as an executive at ABC, working for Tom Murphy and Dan Burke, so he's molded in the managerial cloth of Tom Murphy, and as I said, Warren says that his role model on the managerial side is Tom.
It's no surprise; if you look at what Bob has done at Walt Disney, he is a great believer in managerial autonomy, in decentralization, a high degree of integrity. He's very entrepreneurial, and has been superb at acquisitions; Pixar, Marvel Entertainment, Lucasfilm.
Look, Warren has said that their succession plan contemplates an executive currently working at one of the Berkshire subsidiaries, but if I had to go outside, that's where I'd go.
Hanson: You never know. Buffet's got the elephant gun out. You never know what he could acquire! Disney may be bigger than an elephant. That may be a blue whale ... but hey, you never know!
Cunningham: You never know. When Disney acquired ABC, Berkshire continued to own Disney for a while. But Mike Eisner was CEO at the time, and he has a very different managerial model. It was not the Berkshire model; it was very hands-on. He brought all authority up, and it was a very different culture, and Berkshire sold the stock.
Warren never drew that connection explicitly in any of the letters or anything, but that's my own sense of it, that even as an investee, it wasn't a Berkshire kind of position. But now it's definitely ... there was a huge saga over Disney when Mike was running it, and Roy Disney was very upset and helped engineer the transition to Bob.
But Bob has had a huge impact on reviving some of the great traditional corporate culture at Disney, so now it really is a Berkshire kind of company.
Hanson: I think I'm remembering correctly; Bob Iger has announced his intention to retire in the near future, is that right?
Cunningham: Yes, I heard that too. He's 63, and I met him recently in New York. He's fit as a fiddle. He's just in perfect physical shape, he looks great. I think he loves his job and he's very good at it. But some people would prefer -- I think he's been CEO for 10 or so years, so maybe he's had enough. But I wouldn't mind seeing him continue.
Hanson: Hey, 63. That's nothing to Charlie and Warren. They're laughing at that.
Cunningham: Yes, these days longevity is increasing, and we're all able to do things much longer than our forefathers were able to do them.
Hanson: Very interesting. We'll finish up with one more Berkshire question, because that's how you've always got to wrap it up. I mentioned multiple times that we were both at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting this year. What's the one thing that you always do when you're at the meeting? Is there something that every person should do or hit while they're there?
Cunningham: OK! Well, I already made the joke about my wife and Borsheims. We always go to Borsheims on Sunday afternoon, to the Berkshire shareholder's brunch. It's a scene, and they have discounts on the jewelry, and my wife loves that.
I always go to the meeting. I usually give a lecture somewhere. I usually have some way to sell books. I think taking in a baseball game, I've very much enjoyed. They've got a AAA minor league team there called the Omaha Storm Chasers nowadays. They used to be Omaha Royals or the Omaha Spikes. That's fun.
I like going to the zoo. They've got a world-class zoo -- hippopotamus, giraffes, penguins -- it's a great zoo. They've got a good art museum. The downtown area is actually kind of neat; take a drive along the river.
There's plenty to do in Omaha, but the main thing is the meeting.
Hanson: Of course!
Cunningham: You don't want to miss that, and seeing people. A lot of the fun is just saying hello to people. You bump into people, year after year. You may not see them a lot during the year, but you see them there and you pick up right where you left off. It's a great, collegial group. It's fun.
I'm pretty sure that will keep going too. Part of my shareholder survey I asked people, after Buffett will you be likely to attend fewer or more annual meetings, or the same? It ended up about even, between those three, so I think you may have a smaller turnout but I think it will still be a big deal.
Hanson: All right, so I've got to hit a baseball game and the Omaha hippopotamus, next time I'm at the annual meeting!
The book is Berkshire Beyond Buffett: The Enduring Value of Values. You can preorder it on Amazon, or anywhere out there on the web. Larry, thanks so much.
David Hanson owns shares of American International Group, Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase, Markel, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, American International Group, Berkshire Hathaway, Markel, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, American International Group, Berkshire Hathaway, General Electric Company, JPMorgan Chase, Markel, and Walt Disney and has the following options: long January 2016 $30 calls on American International Group. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.