The information I learned by attending J2 Global's
A shareholder-meeting junkie, Cepuch attended more than 50 of these get-togethers during a five-year period. The companies ranged from megacaps to microcaps, including both U.S. and foreign companies.
Making the grade
For each company, Cepuch provides a scorecard that looks at educational value, entertainment value, freebies, and food and drink. The ratings range from A to F, and Cepuch's a tough grader.
One surprise is his "F" for the entertainment value of Playboy's
Seeing a show
On the other end of the scale, some meetings resemble rock concerts. Thousands of fans attend Berkshire Hathaway's
Cepuch crafts each profile with a fun, wonderfully tongue-in-cheek writing style. On utility company Otter Tail
Speaking of samples, Cepuch must have a nice collection. He talks about boxes of candy at Hershey
Turning meetings into money
While the glamour and goodies are fine, I think it's more valuable to use annual meetings to find investment nuggets. This can be easier with small companies, where you can expect to have one-on-one conversations with management. You might conclude either that the company has a solid strategy, or that it truly deserves its tiny market cap.
From that perspective, Cepuch's book stumbles, covering only a couple of small caps. He also provides too little advice on what kinds of questions you should ask. Even for larger companies, he's a bit shallow on the investment advice. Cepuch is much better at explaining the legal nuances of annual meetings, particularly in discussing the inherent futility of shareholder proposals.
Keep in mind that annual meetings can often be a snooze. Don't be surprised if executives have a script and provide only vague answers to questions. Cepuch recounts one instance in which an executive accidentally read the notation "turn the page" when going through his presentation.
As we approach the height of annual-meeting season, Cepuch's timing is pretty good. While I wish he provided more investment advice, the book is still a handy reference and a fun read. It also reminds us attending annual meetings is not a bad idea -- if only for the free doughnuts.
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Berkshire Hathaway and Wal-Mart are Inside Value picks. Starbucks and eBay are Stock Advisor selections. Otter Tail is a Hidden Gems pick. Playboy is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Superior investing advice is yours free for 30 days, when you try any of our Foolish newsletters.