Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. plans to webcast its annual meeting for the first time, allowing the largest U.S. shareholder gathering to reach a global audience through Yahoo Inc.’s finance page.
Viewers will be able to watch Buffett, Berkshire’s 85-year-old chief executive officer, and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, 92, field five hours of questions on April 30 from shareholders, reporters and analysts about the Omaha, Nebraska-based company, investing, the economy and life.
The webcast offers a chance “to reach more people than ever, in key financial centers” and “to bring the energy and excitement of what happens in Omaha to an informed audience around the world,” Buffett, known as the “oracle of Omaha,” said in a statement on Tuesday.
The webcast may help Yahoo attract advertisers enticed by millions of potential online viewers. Yahoo’s core Internet business has struggled, and CEO Marissa Mayer has signaled she might put the business up for sale.
Andy Serwer, Yahoo Finance’s editor in chief, told CNBC that Yahoo could sell ads for the live stream, and said Buffett had called him in December to ask if a webcast was possible.
“He said, ‘I just want to make it bigger,'” Serwer said. “There’s a lot of demand, particularly in places like China.”
Yahoo shares closed up $2.24, or 8.3 percent, at $29.28.
Berkshire owns nearly 90 businesses, among which are BNSF railroad, Dairy Queen ice cream, Fruit of the Loom underwear, Geico car insurance and See’s candies. Most are in the United States, and the webcast could help Buffett market Berkshire to sellers of businesses elsewhere.
Last year’s annual meeting drew roughly 40,000 people to Omaha to celebrate Buffett’s 50th anniversary at the helm.
Attendance began to swell after Berkshire created lower-priced “B” shares in 1996, which increased the number of investors in the company.
The planned webcast was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
But even with the webcast, traveling to Omaha for Buffett’s “Woodstock for Capitalists” offers distinctive opportunities.
Shareholders get discounts from Berkshire businesses and may also participate in a five-kilometer run or dine at Gorat’s steak house, a Buffett favorite.
It is unclear how the webcast might affect tourism in Omaha, where Berkshire’s annual meeting is the biggest tourist draw other than the College World Series of baseball.
Air fares soar and hotel rates typically double or triple. Rooms within a short walk of the meeting now fetch more than $500 a night including taxes.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Leslie Adler)
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