For a fifth consecutive year, Tyser Teaching Fellow in finance David Kass led students from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business to the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting.
Kass and Tyser Teaching Fellow Elinda Kiss accompanied 10 finance students to Omaha for the May 3, 2014, gathering.
They absorbed a Warren Buffett-led discussion of one of the world’s largest corporations, connected with well-known investors, and experienced the core of what’s referred to locally as “Berkshire Weekend” and more broadly as the “Woodstock for Capitalists.”
Attendance totaled close to 40,000 in the 20,000-seat CenturyLink Center. “At 3 a.m., shareholders started lining up at the entrances,” said Kass, a Berkshire shareholder. “When the doors opened four hours later, shareholders of all ages ran to claim seats. ... By 8 a.m., the overflow crowd was being directed to adjacent rooms to view the proceedings on closed-circuit TV.”
Kass further described the early activity that included video entertainment:
“Shareholders toured an exhibit area highlighting many of the 80 Berkshire-owned companies, including Fruit of the Loom, See’s Candies, H.J. Heinz, Dairy Queen and GEICO. An 8:30-9:30 a.m. video screening humorously depicted Warren Buffett and Paul Anka singing a rendition of “My Way” – originally made famous by Frank Sinatra and written by Anka.
“The video also included an animation of a future Winter Olympics taking place in Omaha. In a U.S.-Russia hockey gold medal showdown, Russia’s skaters – large and muscular – threaten to beat the relatively diminutive American team ‘into borscht.’ The U.S. skaters are led by Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger (Berkshire Vice Chairman) and Bill Gates. With the score tied late, coach Ajit Jain (Berkshire Reinsurance CEO) designs a trick play with ‘an 87-percent chance of success.’ The U.S. team executes the play and wins 4-3.”
Following the festivities, Buffett and Munger answered about 60 questions – primarily related to Berkshire Hathaway – from shareholders, journalists and analysts.
The students representing Smith included undergraduates Rahul Kashyup, Joseph Kucevich, Jessica Manzione, Harsha Neerchal, Lulu Son, David Tian, Eric Urda and Alex Wilson, and Master of Finance student Chuan Shen.
“Our students had the opportunity not only to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting and listen to Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger answer questions,” said Kiss. “They also were given the opportunity to meet with several renowned Berkshire Hathaway investors.”
The students met with Whitney Tilson of Kase Capital. “Both David Kass and Whitney Tilson were quoted in the Omaha World-Herald, that was published the day of the meeting, and their photos were in the paper,” Kiss noted.
Shai Dardashti ’06, of Dardashti Capital, helped spark the now-annual Omaha trek, while completing his Smith bachelor's degree in finance.
“In May of 2005 (the first year Buffett began meeting with Smith School students), Shai was invited to bring 50 MBA and undergraduate students to Omaha for a private meeting with Warren Buffett,” said Kass, who with finance professor Mark Chen, accompanied the group as faculty advisers.
A close follower of Buffett’s investment strategy since 1980, Kass, on UMD’s behalf, subsequently placed his name on the ‘Warren Buffett waiting list’ and was invited to bring 20 MBA students to meet with Buffett in 2011 and 2013.
A Berkshire annual meeting attendee since 2006, he’s led 10 finance fellows to the meetings for the past five years. The itinerary includes Smith-student introductions to Dardashti at the “Yellow BRKers” get-together on the eve of the annual meeting.
“Professor Kass deserves credit for building on what was a mere spark in 2005,” Dardashti said. “With almost a decade of personal dedication, he has established a tradition that continues to put the University of Maryland and Smith School increasingly on the map and on the radar for all the right reasons.”