The Digest #79

Published on April 30, 2021

“I don’t believe anybody knows what the market is going to do tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. I know America is going to move forward over time, but I don’t know for sure, and we learned this on September 10th, 2001, and we learned it a few months ago in terms of the virus. Anything can happen in terms of markets, and you can bet on America, but you got to have to be careful about how you bet, simply because markets can do anything.”

— Warren Buffett, May 3, 2020

Berkshire Hathaway’s Annual Meeting

Berkshire Hathaway’s 2021 Annual Meeting will take place on Saturday, May 1. Due to the pandemic, the event will be live streamed on Yahoo! Finance. Coverage begins at 12:30 PM eastern time with the question and answer session scheduled to run from 1:30 to 5:00 PM. The formal meeting of shareholders will begin at 5:00 PM. Resources to review prior to the annual meeting include Warren Buffett’s letter to shareholdersBerkshire Hathaway’s 2020 annual report and proxy statement. Berkshire is expected to release Q1 2021 results at approximately 8:00 AM on so shareholders will have time to review it prior to the meeting.

Gabelli Funds Omaha Research Conference will take place on Saturday, May 1 from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM eastern time prior to the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting. From 11:30 to 12:00, Macrae Sykes, Gabelli Funds Analyst, will interview Adam Mead, author of The Complete Financial History of Berkshire Hathaway. From 12:00 to 1:00 PM, Tano Santos will moderate a panel discussion with Mario Gabelli, Samantha Greenberg, Thomas Russo, and Kim Shannon. The event is free.

Masterclass in Valuation with Chris Bloomstran, April 24, 2021. In recent years, Chris Bloomstran has emerged as one of the most articulate experts when it comes to analyzing Berkshire Hathaway. His annual letters to Semper Augustus investors have included in-depth coverage of Berkshire. I provided a link to his most recent letter a few weeks ago and suggest that Berkshire shareholders read it prior to the annual meeting. In this recent podcast, Bloomstran talks primarily about Berkshire’s valuation for over an hour. (We Study Billionaires Podcast)


MacKenzie Scott Gave Away Billions. The Scam Artists Followed by Nicholas Kulish, April 24, 2021. Following her 2019 divorce from Jeff Bezos, MacKenzie Scott pledged to give away half of her fortune and gave away nearly $6 billion in 2020. Her approach to philanthropy has been unconventional. She does not have a large foundation, headquarters, or public website and favors direct giving. While this approach is fast, direct, and unbureaucratic, it opened a path for impersonators to prey on vulnerable people in elaborate scams. This is one of the most disturbing articles on philanthropy that I’ve read in quite some time. (New York Times)

Apple Is the $2.3 Trillion Fortress That Tim Cook Built by Austin Carr and Mark Gurman, February 9, 2021. Apple continues to post excellent financial results, most likely far surpassing the expectations that Steve Jobs had when he turned over the reins to Tim Cook nearly a decade ago. “Tim may not be able to design a product like Steve,” says Warren Buffett, who knows Cook well and whose Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has a stake in Apple worth $111 billion, as of a September filing. “But Tim understands the world to a degree that very, very few CEOs I’ve met over the past 60 years could match.” h/t Farnam Street’s Brain Food Newsletter (Bloomberg) 

Elon Musk’s War on Regulators by Susan Pulliam, Rebecca Elliott, and Ben Foldy, April 28, 2021. Elon Musk’s run-ins with regulators have become legendary. He also has a confrontational relationship with many reporters, including the authors of this article. When asked for comment on specifics of the article, Mr. Musk responded with a poop emoji. As David Einhorn observed recently, “The laws don’t apply to him and he can do whatever he wants.” Even if one believes that Elon Musk is an uncommon genius likely to “make the world a better place”, it is not a good thing for society to have individuals seemingly above the law. (WSJ)

Opening a Small-Town Bookstore During the Pandemic Was the Craziest Thing We Ever Did by Ryan Holiday, April 23, 2021. Ryan Holiday shares his experience starting a small business at a very bad time: “In January of last year, my wife and I put our life savings down on a 140-year-old building on Main Street in Bastrop, a small town outside Austin—East of Weird goes the slogan—where we’ve lived since 2015. We’d spotted the storefront, which is part of the National Register of Historic Places, while having breakfast one morning at Maxine’s Cafe, just across the street and a few doors down. By February we’d hired our first employees and started renovations. We envisioned hosting events, welcoming customers from the community, and drawing people to this beautiful street on the bluffs of the Colorado River…”  (Texas Monthly)


Roger Lowenstein Interview, November 29, 2020. Few books have influenced my career more than Roger Lowenstein’s 1995 biography of Warren Buffett, The Making of an American Capitalist. The book came out shortly after I graduated from college and had yet to find the type of job I was looking for. Only vaguely familiar with Warren Buffett prior to reading this book, I soon set out to find out all I could about Ben Graham, Buffett, and Berkshire Hathaway. The return on investment from purchasing Lowenstein’s book is incalculable. In this podcast, Lowenstein discusses writing the Buffett biography as well as his more recent books. (Bogleheads on Investing)

Jesse Livermore – What Now?, April 29, 2021. Jim O’Shaughnessy interviews his pseudonymous guest, Jesse Livermore, regarding monetary policy, bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, managing future crises, and other topics. One of the interesting things about the internet and social media is that ideas are what count. The fact that I don’t know the real identify of the guest doesn’t diminish my interest in his ideas presented in this podcast or on his twitter account(Infinite Loops)

Alyssa Ravasio – Supply, Demand, and the Outdoors, April 29, 2021. Alyssa Ravasio is the co-founder and CEO of Hipcamp, a platform intended to make it easier for people to discover the great outdoors. Camping should be a very simple recreational activity but Ravasio noticed how difficult it has become to figure out what gear is needed and where to go. Government run campgrounds are often booked to capacity and information is not easily accessible regarding amenities offered. Ravasio came up with an idea to connect private landowners with campers and built a platform that is similar to Airbnb, except for outdoor recreation. (Founder’s Field Guide)

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The Digest #79