Warren Buffett announced Friday morning the Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A)(NYSE:BRK.B) annual meeting would go on as scheduled on May 2, but because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, shareholders will not be permitted to attend.
The only people who will be at the meeting will be Buffett, possibly Charlie Munger, and a few employees to deliver proxy votes for investors.
As the pandemic has intensified worldwide, Buffett has been mulling how to proceed with the annual shareholder meeting, which has become something of a pilgrimage among some investors. Tens of thousands flock to Omaha each year to attend, and the meetings have over time taken on a carnival-like atmosphere with Buffett dancing, singing, and putting on skits.
It wasn't always like that: The first annual meeting in 1973 was held in the lunchroom of an insurance company Berkshire had purchased. But as Buffett's investments grew and his acumen gained legendary status, people discovered they wanted to see the Oracle of Omaha in person, and hear his opinions firsthand.
In recent days, however, Buffett has grown concerned over the health risk created by so many people gathering together for the three-day affair. Only a few days ago, he had expected to wait till early April to make a decision about the annual meeting.
Yet in a press release issued Friday morning, Buffett said "events have moved very fast" since the company issued its annual report on Feb. 22. Instead of risking Omaha becoming a "hot spot" in the pandemic, Berkshire Hathaway will prohibit shareholder attendance.
The meeting, though, will be live-streamed on Yahoo!, and one or more journalists may be allowed to attend so that they can ask questions that have been submitted to them.