Buffett spotlights assistant, tosses papers with Bill GatesMay 5, 2012: 12:44 PM ET
I had planned to be in Omaha for Warren Buffett's big weekend. But I'm in Pennsylvania with my very sick dad. Trading emails this morning with CNN's Poppy Harlow, I asked her if she would do a Guest Post for Postcards. Thank you, Poppy, for this terrific report on the Berkshire Hathaway annual festivities.
by Poppy Harlow, CNN Correspondent
This morning in Omaha, Warren Buffett welcomed some 35,000 Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) shareholders with his traditional 30-minute movie featuring back-to-back jokes -- largely by or about himself. But at this year's annual meeting, the Berkshire CEO is shining the spotlight on someone else in his corporate orbit: his longtime assistant, Debbie Bosanek.
Bosanek has gotten huge attention from the Obama administration for paying a higher tax rate than Buffett himself. Buffett's video spoof shows him sitting at his desk at Berkshire headquarters in Omaha, repeatedly answering the phone, with callers such as Oprah Winfrey, President Obama, and CNBC's Becky Quick. But these VIPs aren't calling for Buffett--they're calling for Bosanek!
Before the movie rolled at 8:30 a.m. in Omaha's CenturyLink Center, the press got a chance to spend an hour with Buffett as he roamed the exhibition floor, visiting booths filled with goodies from Berkshire companies.
We started at the Justin Boots booth where Buffett sang with the Nebraska Huskies cheerleaders--who danced in, what else, Justin Boots (a Berkshire company).
Then we made our way over to the Dairy Queen display where Buffett grabbed his favorite--a dreamsicle (the orange one). Then a quick stop at Burlington Northern Railroad's booth, which boasted an elaborate model train show representing every Berkshire Hathaway company. Buffett chatted with Burlington CEO Matt Rose, whom some bet could become Buffett's successor. Berkshire acquired Burlington for some $44 billion in 2009.
But the highlight of the morning was a first this year. Buffett, a former paperboy, showed off his paper-tossing skills in a competition with Bill Gates. Buffett beat Gates by a small margin, hitting the porch of a Clayton Homes model house (also a Berkshire company). Then he invited a few journalists to join him. A reporter -- that would be me! -- took her first shot at it, coming in third to Buffett and Gates. (Not bad for an armature.) Full disclosure: Buffett folded the paper for me -- a key to his technique!
Then the fun and games were over and the convention center filled with 35,000 Berkshire faithful who traveled from around the world to hear from Buffett, 81, and his 88-year old co-captain, Charlie Munger.
During the day-long meeting, Buffett expects to get at least 54 questions from audience members, journalists and a select group of analysts.
The question of Buffett's health came up late this morning, following news in recent weeks that he has been diagnosed with stage one prostate cancer. Buffett replied: "I feel terrific. I love what I do, I work with people I love, it's more fun everyday...My secretary was getting more attention that I was, so I threw the spotlight back on me. Seriously, it is a non-event."