Buffett Devotees Head to Omaha for First Meeting Without Munger

When Berkshire Hathaway Inc. devotees gather in Omaha on Saturday for its annual meeting, there will be a noticeable void on stage.

The meeting is Berkshire’s first since Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s long-time business partner and right-hand man, died in November — just months shy of his 100th birthday. Munger’s appearances alongside Buffett, 93, had helped draw crowds of thousands, eager to hear him opine in his blunt and witty style on investing, philosophy, human foibles, corporate excesses and more.

“Without Munger, it may be a somber start, especially for those who have owned the stock and been coming to Omaha for decades,” said Jim Shanahan, an analyst at Edward Jones. “You could see it being kind of weepy for some people.”

Buffett and Munger transformed Berkshire from a failing textile mill into a $862 billion behemoth spanning industries including insurance, energy and railroads — making it a closely watched proxy for US economic health. The firm will report first-quarter results before the meeting kicks off on Saturday, with analysts predicting its collection of insurance businesses and a robust economy will help boost profit. Operating income may jump 10% from a year earlier, when it totaled $8.07 billion, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

“Earnings will be strong,” said Bill Smead, chief investment officer at Smead Capital Management. “When Main Street does well, the operating businesses at Berkshire do extremely well.”