Shareholders wrap up Berkshire weekend with 5K, shopping

Shareholders wrap up Berkshire weekend with 5K, shopping
World-Herald News Service

Greg Abel sounded an air horn that set off the sixth (and biggest) “Invest in Yourself 5K” Berkshire Hathaway run Sunday, and 2,653 people ran, power-walked and strolled past the electronic starting line on the 3.1-mile course through downtown Omaha.

Then, 52 minutes and 16 seconds later, Abel, who was promoted to vice chairman of Berkshire earlier this year and wore name tag No. 1 for the race, crossed the finish line along the Missouri River, finishing 2,154th in the event, which benefited the Special Olympics and Girls Inc.

The 55-year-old was joined by Berkshire shareholders from six continents for Sunday’s lineup of Berkshire events, winding down the weekend centered on the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Saturday that was expected to attract more than 42,000 people.

Among the other racers Sunday: Nate Hurst, who brought along his father, Rick, from Boston to the meeting, and accountant Chris Lourens and her friend, process manager Molly Christian from Minneapolis.

It was the first Berkshire weekend for the two pairs.

By 10 a.m. many of the racers, plus others who slept in, joined about 800 people at the Hilton Omaha for a free brunch and a Q&A session sponsored by Markel Corp., an insurance company from Richmond, Virginia, with an Omaha office a few blocks away.

It was the 28th year for Markel’s Omaha information session, held in Omaha because the Berkshire meeting attracts people interested in a company with a similar business model: Gathering money through insurance and then investing that money in stocks and acquisitions.

Markel co-CEO Thomas Gayner discussed the company’s three big purchases over the past year: SureTec Financial, a bonding company from Houston for $250 million; State National Cos., an insurance company from Bedford, Texas, for $919 million; and Costa Farms, an ornamental plants company from Miami for $255 million.

Meanwhile, other Berkshire shareholders gathered at the Regency Court shopping mall, home of Berkshire’s Borsheims Fine Jewelry & Gifts, for a brunch and what they hoped would be a chance to watch Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett play table tennis with U.S. Olympian Ariel Hsing.

Buffett and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates this year skipped their usual ping pong match, spent about an hour playing bridge and then left for other appointments.

Many people came to shop during what has become Borsheims biggest sales days of the year.

Among those at Regency Court was Leigh Voruz, art teacher at Omaha Beveridge Junior High School, and her son, Max, 8. They came to Borsheims, partly to give Buffett a ukulele she had painted with a Berkshire theme. Max bought a toy train, but they didn’t see Buffett during their stop at the shopping center.

One last activity by many of the out-of-town shareholders: Booking rooms for next year’s meeting, scheduled for May 4, 2019.

The Omaha World-Herald is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.