Thousands of people fill arena to hear from Warren Buffett

Listening to Warren Buffett never gets old to the thousands of Berkshire Hathaway shareholders who are filling an arena to listen to the billionaire investor at the company’s annual meeting on Saturday.

More than 30,000 people filled an arena and several overflow rooms in Omaha to hear Buffett and Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger talk. The 86-year-old CEO and his 93-year-old partner have been leading the conglomerate for more than five decades, but the crowd is always listening for new tidbits of wisdom. Buffett is known for his candor and plain speaking.

Berkshire’s top two executives acknowledged Saturday that they missed out on investing in Google years ago, but they expressed pride in the company they built through acquisitions and said they believe it will thrive for decades to come.

“In retrospect, I think we were smart enough to figure out Google early, and we didn’t,” Munger said.

Buffett and Munger avoided technology investments for most of their careers because they said it was too hard to figure out which companies will win. Berkshire does now own 133 million Apple shares, but it just sold off one-third of its 81 million IBM shares because Buffett misjudged that firm.

Buffett said there’s no change in Berkshire’s plan to eventually replace him. He said one of the most important qualities his successor will need is a talent for wisely investing Berkshire’s cash.

“We need a money mind as CEO,” said Buffett, who has no plans to retire.

Berkshire plans to name one of its existing managers CEO after Buffett is gone, and the decentralized structure of the company allows Berkshire’s subsidiaries to largely run themselves.

“We have an extraordinary group of good managers,” Buffett said.

The executives who run Berkshire subsidiaries look forward to the meeting just as the shareholders do.

Brooks Running CEO Jim Weber said he’s always careful about how much of Buffett’s time he takes up when he talks to him, so those conversations tend to…

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