Reporting From Omaha : The Cocktail Reception

I finally made in to Omaha. Unfortunately I missed my connecting flight in Denver due to inclement weather and was informed that I’d have to spend the night there. Luckily I was able to track down a high-school friend of mine and catch with her after nearly 15 years. Of course with the 1 hour commute each way and my early morning flight, there wasn’t much time to catch-up or sleep, but if it hadn’t been for the sudden snow storm, I probably wouldn’t have seen her or her artist boyfriend for another 5 years!

This year there’s an estimated 27,000 Berkshire shareholders descending on the town of Omaha (population of approximately 400,000). The place is swarming with visitors. i went to the Borshiems Cocktail Reception which was a mall that was closed off to regular visitors and opened only to shareholders. It featured live music, food and a huge selection of alcohol. It was completely packed to the seams.

Borshiems is a famous jewelery store that is reportedly number 2, after Tiffany’s, in sales volume. Most of the other shops in the mall were also open but compared to Borshiems, they hardly had any traffic. All Shareholders get huge discounts at Borshiems this weekend. I believe its in the 25% range for jewelery, watches and other knick-knacks. Check out the jewel encrusted purses below. Yes, the piglet and the tomato are purses! Also notice the black purse in the background. It has a silver colored snake on it1

Jewel Encrusted Purses: Piglet, Tomato & Snake

I started talking to one of the local shareholders and he offered me a small tour of the city. We swung by Warren Buffett’s house. Not only is it not the largest house on Farnam street, but there isn’t even a gate. I could’ve pretty much walked up the front door and rang the door bell. Here’s a picture. It was not very well lit so the picture is pretty dark.

Warren Buffett's House on Farnam Street

Buffett reportedly bought it for about $31,500 back in 1958. Today it’s worth about $750,000. I saw a really nice colonial house 2 blocks from there for sale for $299,000.

I also swung by the local Dairy Queen “Restaurant” – I wasn’t aware that they sold non-dairy products like hamburgers and hotdogs. It was totally packed with shareholders trying to get a free icecream cone. There was also Paul Larson, editor of Morningstar (and formally the Motley Fool) handing out free StockInvestor newsletter copies too.

Dairy Queen in Omaha packed with Berkshire shareholders

Well, tomorrow is the big day – its the Annual Shareholder meeting itself! Hopefully, I’ll be able to get a taxi to the Qwest Center without any problem

Omaha Here I Come!

The Annual Shareholder Meeting for Berkshire Hathaway is this Saturday on May 3rd in Omaha, Nebraska. I finally got my meeting credentials from the company. I had been waiting to book my tickets until I got them. It seems I could’ve gotten them in Omaha itself, but I didn’t want to take that risk. It would be pretty stupid if I showed up and they didn’t grant me admission!

Anyway, I’ve been following the online airline prices for flights to Omaha. Two weeks ago, the flights cost around $350 round-trip to Omaha from San Diego. Last Friday and Saturday the cheapest tickets on Orbitz were going for $505. Today, however, the price dropped down to $240! That’s half-price from just two days ago. Now of course, the next challenge is getting accomodation.

Apparently, hotels in the entire city of Omaha are sold out. The nearest hotel room is about 50 miles away in Lincoln, Nebraska! Luckily I found a couch at a friend of a friend’s place that’s only 3 miles away from the Qwest Center (which is where the shareholder meeting is going to take place).

I’m really excited to be going. I’m pretty keen on hearing what Buffett has to say about the bid for Wrigley’s. I also expect to meet a lot of other investors and make some new friends.

If any of you are going to be there, drop me a line and maybe we can meet up.