And yes, to quell your curiosity, Buffett did, in fact, say that size does matter.
Jokes aside, Doug Kass, the big, bad Berkshire bear, challenged Buffett and Charlie Munger on whether Berkshire's size would impede future returns. The easy answer is, of course -- and it's been answered many times over the years -- yes. There are certain opportunities that start to disappear as Berkshire gets ever larger.
However, through the first couple hours of the meeting, both Buffett and Munger returned to the theme that Berkshire's size and financial give the company huge competitive advantage. How many companies out there have billions in liquid cash available to jump on opportunities at a moment's notice? How many have managers of the right mettle to put that capital to work when the market is in disarray?
This theme should bring to mind Berkshire's crisis-era investments in General Electric (NYSE:GE) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), as well as its investment a few years later in Bank of America (NYSE:BAC). We could probably throw the recent H.J. Heinz deal into the mix as well. In all cases, Berkshire's reputation, ability to move quickly, and its huge bank account put it in a position to snag investment opportunities not available to anyone else.
In other words, Berkshire is rapidly turning a growing challenge into a growing advantage. And that's an advantage that Buffett doesn't expect to go away even if the Oracle himself is no longer around.
Of course, let's not exaggerate this point. Buffett quipped that "Berkshire is the 800 number when there's really sort of panic in the markets and for one reason or another people need extra capital." But he also said "that hasn't been our main business, but it's been fine."
Matt Koppenheffer owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway, Goldman Sachs, and H.J. Heinz Company. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway, and General Electric Company. 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.