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updated: 5/4/2013 2:43 PM

Buffett leads an annual meeting like no other

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  • Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., tours the exhibition floor Saturday prior to the start of the Berkshire shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.

      Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., tours the exhibition floor Saturday prior to the start of the Berkshire shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. -- Before facing questions from a crowd of more than 30,000, billionaire Warren Buffett started Saturday being mobbed by fans at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting.

Shareholders again treated the 82-year-old investor like a rock star at Saturday's annual meeting.

Admirers held their cell phones and iPads in the air as they surrounded Buffett in the meeting's 200,000-square-foot exhibit hall. A pack of security guards created a buffer around Buffett as he visited displays selling Berkshire's See's Candy, explaining BNSF railroad's virtues and highlighting some of the company's other 80-plus subsidiaries.

Andy Paullin, drove to Omaha from Milwaukee, Wis., on Friday for attend the meeting and learn from Buffett and Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, just as he has done nearly every year since 2007.

"It's exciting to be here and listen to these guys," he said. "I can't believe more people aren't interested."

At the See's booth, Buffett got a lesson in making hand-dipped bonbons. Then See's manufacturing manager Steve Powell got Buffett to autograph his white uniform coat, demonstrating that employees are nearly as excited about meeting Buffett as shareholders.

"He was right there. Why not? It's Mr. Buffett," said Powell, explaining why he asked for the autograph. "He's wonderful."

Powell said he'll probably frame the coat and display it at work when he returns to California.

The Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting began humbly in 1982 with a crowd of 15 in an insurance company cafeteria. It has been growing steadily just as the company's stock price rose to become the most-expensive in the U.S., reaching $162,904 for a Class A share on Friday.

Buffett will sit on stage with his 89-year-old business partner, Munger, to answer questions from shareholders, journalists and financial analysts for six hours.

Amaury Fernandez and his best friend Rick Cabrera traveled to the meeting from Miami because Fernandez is interested in investing and admires Buffett and Munger.

"They are two of the most remarkable men I've ever learned about," Fernandez said. "We don't know how much longer these gentlemen are going to be alive."

Jim Weber, CEO of Berkshire's Brooks Running company, said he has been reading Buffett's annual letters to shareholders since the 1980s -- long before Brooks became part of Berkshire. Weber had even attended four Berkshire annual meetings before Brooks was acquired in 2006 along with Russell Athletic.

"If you're in the business world, it's a bucket list item. There's no other annual meeting like it," Weber said.

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