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Berkshire Hathaway
Quotes from the Annual Meeting

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By TMFOtter
May 5, 2008

Posts selected for this feature rarely stand alone. They are usually a part of an ongoing thread, and are out of context when presented here. The material should be read in that light. How are these posts selected? Click here to find out and nominate a post yourself!

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[Note: Our own Bill Mann is in the press booth in Omaha, collecting these gems to send back here.] 

Warren Buffett: "Charlie spent 20 years looking for the perfect woman. Unfortunately when he found her she was looking for the perfect man."

Charlie Munger: "If Warren had gone into the ballet, no one would have ever heard of him."

WB: "If you find something that turns you on, it's likely that you have an aptitude at it"

WB: "In high school and in college I was terrified of public speaking. The ability to communicate publicly in writing and orally is enormously important, and is under-taught. If you can communicate well, it is an enormous advantage."

"CM: It's a real pleasure to have an educator come who is focusing on something important instead of something that is foolish and unimportant.

WB: "I hope you're not going to name names."

WB: "As Gypsy Rose once said, ‘I have everything I had 5 years ago, it's just all 2 inches lower." We will own a lot more businesses in 5 years, plus we'll own all the businesses we own today.

CM: We created a massive business from thin air. We've only done it once, so we're a one trick pony.

Someone once asked us what the best investment we ever made, and I said "the fee to the executive recruiter who found us Ajit Jain."

CM: The policy of American corn into fuel was one of the dumbest ideas in the history of the world. I'm in Nebraska, and I like Nebraskans to prosper, but this is an idea that I think is probably on its way out.

WB: A CDO squared is nuttiness squared. I think the discipline, mild as it may be, to have management state their assets at cost, has a positive benefit. Charlie found an instrument one time that was mis-valued by $20 million back when that was real money.

CM: Some of my Republican friends have overdosed on Ayn Rand, and seem to believe that anything that happens in a free market system for someone's best interest it was good, even if it was an axe murder.

I think some things that should be forbidden. If the phrase "this is a financial instrument that is designed to reduce risk" had been banned then the American financial system would work better.

Q. On the future of mass transit and in particular railroads.

WB: The American public basically doesn't like mass transit. American love affair with the car is sort of overwhelming. You could make all kinds of rational arguments to people about the benefits of mass transit, but one car per person seems to be an unbeatable model. Even with gas at $4, people don't want to wait. I don't like to bet on something that's gone one way for decades suddenly reversing/

CM: You have a more optimistic view of it than I have.

a Chinese gentleman thanked Buffett and Munger for their objective view on China and the Beijing Olympics and asked:

Q. We had a group of Chinese CEOs and Chairmen come to Omaha to learn about corporate management from the best. We thank you. My question is, why did you make the decision to sell PetroChina?

A. We made the decision to buy PetroChina when it was valued at $35 billion and should have been $100 billion. Soon after I sold PetroChina became the most valuable company in the world, after they issued additional A class shares. If it came down from current levels, we'd love to own it again, but we thought that the company at $350 billion was no longer priced attractively compared to other oil companies.

I think there are plenty of things we can learn from Chinese managers. There are plenty of American business practices that I would not want to export.

CM: I hope you'll go back to China and tell them that you met at least one person in America who approves of the Confucian idea of revering elder males.

WB: Well, you might want to dig yourself out of the hole you're digging by including females.

CM: It was Confucius' idea, not mine.