In a few short weeks from now, Berkshire Hathaway will hold its annual shareholder meeting in Omaha. For many, this is the social event of the year, a chance to buy deeply discounted products owned by the company and a rare opportunity to stand in close proximity to Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett. But for the last number of years, a dark cloud has hovered over the festivities, thanks to local hotels who see the meeting, to which thousands of people flock, as a convenient time to hike their prices. The opportunistic increase in rates rankles many, but none more than Buffett, who has reportedly had it up to here with the bull shit. And this is what he’s doing about it:
The billionaire investor is planning to mention the [Airbnb] at Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s upcoming annual shareholders' meeting on May 3 as a low-cost alternative for shareholders who don't want to pay the jacked-up rates that Omaha hotels charge while the gathering is taking place every year…This price-gouging annoys Mr. Buffett, who says shareholders shouldn't have to pay through their noses for a trip that, when the plane flight and other expenses are included, can add up to several thousand dollars. (Another annoyance for Mr. Buffett: Airlines also raise their Omaha fares for the weekend.) Many shareholders bring their spouses or families along for the weekend, where Berkshire's more than 70 operating companies offer discounts on their wares. What's more, many hotels enforce a two- or three-night minimum stay for the weekend.
If it seems unusual for the CEO of a multinational conglomerate to get involved in details like the accommodations of shareholders, you’re right, it is unusual. Brian Moynihan doesn’t call up the Marriott and try to negotiate a better price for investors flying in for the weekend and Jim Gorman doesn’t stock welcome bags with bottled water and pretzels for stakeholders coming in to see him. But Warren Buffett isn’t a regular old CEO. He’s one part chief executive, two parts self-described Mama Bear.
Mr. Buffett, who said he's a bit of a "mother bear [who] can get fierce about protecting shareholders," said in a recent interview he thought Airbnb could provide a cheaper option. "I want to protect my cubs, make sure shareholders are well taken care of," he said.
And if anyone finds they are still unable to book a room through the website, give Mama Buffett a call. She’ll raise some hell and if that doesn’t do anything, you’ll bunk with her. She’ll even pick you up from airport. There are plenty of clean sheets in the linen closet and breakfast is at 9.
Buffett Will Steer Investors to Airbnb to Avoid Price-Gouging by Omaha Hotels [MoneyBeat]
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