OMAHA, Nebraska (Reuters) - Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway Inc will hold its annual shareholder meeting on Saturday in Omaha, Nebraska, is the world’s richest person, and perhaps America’s most-revered capitalist.
* Buffett, 77, bought Berkshire, a struggling textile mill, in 1965. Berkshire’s market value is now roughly $200 billion. Berkshire owns more than 70 companies, including auto insurer Geico, reinsurer General Re, ice cream maker Dairy Queen, and utility MidAmerican Energy. It ended last year with $75 billion of stock investments in companies such as American Express Co, Coca-Cola Co, Procter & Gamble Co and Wells Fargo & Co.
* According to Berkshire’s latest proxy filing, as of February 29, 2008, Buffett owned 350,000 Class A shares of Berkshire, equal to 32.4 percent of shares outstanding, and 2,564,355 Class B shares, equal to 18.3 percent. He owned 28.1 percent of Berkshire in aggregate, and controlled 31.5 percent of the company’s voting power.
* Berkshire’s share price is high, trading most of this year around $130,000 to $140,000 for a Class “A” share, because there are few shares outstanding. Buffett does not believe in stock splits, and encourages long-term investing. Berkshire in 1996 introduced Class “B” shares valued at 1/30th of Class “A” shares. It has not declared a cash dividend since 1967.
* Buffett tells his shareholders that he thinks of them as “owner-partners” who will retain their part ownership in Berkshire indefinitely.
* Buffett has nearly all his net worth, estimated in March at $62 billion by Forbes magazine, invested in Berkshire. He has said every Berkshire share he owns will go to philanthropies after his death. In June 2006, he pledged 85 percent of his net worth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and four family charities.
* Despite being the world’s richest person, Buffett draws an annual salary of just $100,000 to run Berkshire.
* Buffett drinks five cans of Cherry Coke a day.
* Buffett has lived in the same house for a half-century, a 10-room, five-bedroom home on less than three-quarters of an acre in Omaha, near his office. The home was assessed at $710,000 last year.
* Buffett plays ukulele, and is a bridge partner of Bill Gates, the Microsoft Corp chairman and Berkshire director.
* Buffett’s investments and predictions don’t always work.
— At last year’s annual meeting, he said subprime mortgage lending problems did not pose a “huge danger” to the U.S. economy, and that absent significant increases in unemployment and interest rates, “it’s unlikely that that factor triggers anything of a massive nature in the general economy.”
— In his shareholder letter, he called a $433 million all-stock purchase of Dexter Shoe in 1993, eight years before he folded the struggling company into another business, “the worst deal that I’ve made.” He added: “I’ll make more mistakes in the future — you can bet on that.”
For a related article about the annual meeting, please click on.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Brian Moss