Each year, Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, and by extension, the general public, are treated to famous investor Warren Buffett’s thoughts on a range of topics during the fund’s annual general meeting.
For entrepreneurs, it’s always worth dipping back into these speeches and reviewing advice from the Oracle of Omaha and his long-time business partner Charlie Munger.
Here are five of our favourite revelations from this month’s meeting.
The future of artificial intelligence and self-driving cars
Buffett believes the rise of autonomous vehicles, specifically self-driving trucks, would be more of a threat than an opportunity for businesses like Berkshire Hathaway-owned railroad company, Burlington Northern.
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However, the advantages Buffett sees in driverless technology are around increased safety, with Fortune reporting he this year told shareholders “if driverless trucks became pervasive, it would only be because they are safer”.
“So I would say both of those: Autonomous vehicles widespread would hurt us, if they spread to trucks, and they would hurt our auto insurance business,” Buffett said.
Buffett ruthlessly denounces broccoli and asparagus
In a recent documentary on Buffett’s life, the investor billionaire revealed his daily breakfast is decided by swings in shares, and he chooses a different meal from McDonald’s based on the status of the markets.
Buffett has also said he drinks five cans of Coke a day, and Berkshire Hathaway is the largest shareholder in Coca-Cola.
At the annual meeting, Buffett backed up these claims, discussing how the sugary beverage was his main source of sugar and calories.
“I would say I’ve been eating things I like to eat all my life. And Coca-Cola, this Coca-Cola 12 ounces, I drink about five a day. It has about 1.2 ounces of sugar in it,” he said.
“And if you look at what different people get their sugar and calories from, they get them from all kinds of things. I happen to believe I like to get my calories from this, I enjoy it.”
“If you told me that I would live one year longer…if I ate only broccoli or asparagus or whatever, or if I eat what I like including Coca-Colas and steak and hash browns, I’d rather eat what I like and enjoy eating what I like than eat something I don’t and live another year.”
Why Buffett has a “silver bullet” for Jeff Bezos
“If you had a silver bullet and you could shoot it and get rid of one of your competitors who would it be?” Buffett was asked.
For some, that answer might come easily, and Buffett didn’t hesitate to name his target, levelling his sights at Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. However, Buffett maintained he “admired” Bezos, and regretted never investing in Amazon in the early stages.
“I think that both in the cloud and in retail, there are a lot of people who would aim the silver bullet at Jeff,” he said.
“And we missed it entirely. We never owned a share of Amazon. I was too dumb to realize what was going to happen.
“I admired Jeff, but I did not think he’d succeed on the scale that he has, and I didn’t even think of the possibility that he’d do the things with the cloud services. I never even considered buying Amazon.”
“I really underestimated the brilliance of the execution. It’s one thing to dream about, it’s another thing to do it. I thought [Bezos] was really brilliant, but I didn’t think he’d be where he is today when I looked at it three, five, eight years ago anyway.”
The future of Berkshire Hathaway if Buffett passed away
Despite one shareholder hoping Buffett would win “the record as mankind’s oldest living person”, it was asked at this years’ meeting what would happen when 86-year-old Buffett or 93-year-old Munger passed away, with investors worried top management would not repurchase Berkshire Hathaway shares if the price fell.
“I think the stock is more likely to go up but if I died tonight, I think the stock would go up tomorrow and there’d be speculation about breakups and all that sort of thing, so it would be a good Wall Street story,” Buffett said.
“I might suddenly get very stupid very quickly, but I don’t think our board is going to have that problem,” Munger agreed.
Why money should never be a minus
CNBC reports Buffett told a story this year of an “Aunt Katie” who lived in Omaha in a house she paid $8,000 for, and made it to the age of 97.
“Because she was in Berkshire [early] she ended up with a few hundred million and she would write me a letter every four, five months and she said, ‘Dear Warren, I hate to bother you, but am I going to run out of money?'” Buffett said.
“And I would write her back and I’d say, ‘Dear Katie, It’s a good question because if you live 986 years, you’re going to run out of money. And then about four or five months later, she would write me the same letter again.”
“There’s no way in the world if you’ve got plenty of money that it should become a minus in your life.”