Tonus at the annual Berkshire Hathaway conference - 2023
I was grateful that I made it to this years annual Berkshire Hathaway conference. Firstly because a good number of industry colleagues were unable to, given the difficulties at various airports. Secondly that I was able to make some fantastic new connections and additionally because the dynamic duo of Buffett and Munger aren’t getting any younger. Although they do a great job at deceiving us all of that, such is their ongoing mental capacity. I’ve tuned in almost every year and take various levels of notes and on reflection, this edition was one of the better ones. There is certainly some bias having been present and in person. But various conversations with routine attendees suggested I wasn’t perhaps too far off the mark.
Why did I go? Bucket List item certainly. Especially post pandemic when nothing should be taken for granted. But additionally, to glean, in person the one or two things that I habitually do each year. Add a couple more arrows to the investing quiver.
This year is particularly interesting given the very many things that we have to consider and navigate past. I doubt this will be my last time. Below are two thoughts I wrote down among several points. I’m open to cracking open my notebook and discussing my other musings. No promises that they will be as insightful to you as they were interesting to me!
Other than Buffett’s decision to buy Berkshire Hathaway itself, I’ve noted a deliberate aversion to conflict, at least publicly. He repeated this quote by Tom Murphy as saying: ‘Praise by name, criticize by category’ and that ‘You can always tell people to go to hell tomorrow’. I find that interesting in a world that has twitter and that witnessed Icahn vs Ackman live on TV!
I recall reading that in 2014, Berkshire had hit about $15B in investments preparing for a post fossil fuel world (it’s double that amount today and they remain one of the largest renewable power asset owners in the US) even before he touched upon the same topic at this years edition. Still, his quote (paraphrased): ‘ Our system of government is not geared to rejig our energy systems….can’t create the unity of purpose like it was done in wartime’ was so striking in conjunction with other things Munger mentioned and I wonder the magnitude of the giant gut punch to this transition when tax incentives go away. Or worse, can’t be afforded.
Partner, Tonus Capital