Book Review: University of Berkshire Hathaway

university of berkshire hathawayThe market is flooded with books about Warren Buffett. This is the 5th one that I have read. Some books assemble or quote Buffett’s writings; others reverse engineer Buffett’s investment strategy. Often these authors seem to be trying to convince you they have inside information or trying to indoctrinate you into the Buffett cult. University of Berkshire Hathaway is not one of those books. It has details you won’t find anywhere else, which makes it a relevant addition to the prolific repertoire of books about Buffett and Berkshire.

U.B.H. is unique in that the authors didn’t set out to write a book. They had hit the road in the 1980s, trying to learn as much as they could about Buffett, Charlie Munger, and other investment gurus, so that they could help to serve their clients better. They attended every Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting for than 30 years, plus some other related meetings. This volume includes their notes from 30 annual Q&A sessions with Buffett and Munger, which have known to reach lengths of 6 hours each.

You can’t find this specific content anywhere. For example, you could easily do a web search for Buffett’s letter from the 1986 Berkshire annual report, but if you weren’t one of the 300 people in the room for the shareholders meeting that year, I doubt you’ll be able to find video of the 2.5 hour session. Pecaut and Wrenn recorded copious notes at every meeting and published them in an exclusive newsletter at the time. Their notes are organized by year, then by topic, and include direct quotations. No proselytizing or snake oil sales tactics, just pages and pages of Buffett’s and Munger’s wit and wisdom from decades of long meetings.

Pecaut and Wrenn did something very Buffett- and Munger-esque in writing this book. They set out to learn as much as they could from their idols and apply it to their careers, and doing so naturally evolved into creating a platform to share that knowledge with the next generation of investors and business leaders. If you intend to join that tradition, University of Berkshire Hathaway is a fine addition to your financial education.

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