Douglas Kass, founder of Seabreeze Partners Management Inc., answered Warren Buffett’s call for someone who’s bearish on Berkshire Hathaway Inc. to ask questions at the firm’s annual meeting.
Buffett selected Kass, the billionaire said in an interview with CNBC Monday, after he wrote in his annual letter March 1 that he was looking for an investment professional who’s negative on the stock, or betting on its decline, to ask questions at the May 4 meeting for his Omaha, Nebraska-based company.
It is the latest twist in the format of a meeting that draws tens of thousands of shareholders each year to hear Buffett and Berkshire Vice Chairman Charles Munger’s views on investing, corporate governance, the economy, politics and life. Buffett, who has entertained shareholders in past meetings with musings on baseball and Paris Hilton, has sought to steer talk in recent years back toward Berkshire.
In 2009, he invited a panel of journalists, including longtime friend and Fortune magazine writer Carol Loomis, CNBC’s Becky Quick and the New York Times’s Andrew Ross Sorkin to alternate asking questions with the audience.
Last year, Buffett added a panel of three insurance analysts to pose more queries about Berkshire businesses such as Geico and General Re. That proved too narrow of a focus for some shareholders, he wrote in this year’s letter.
Buffett, 82, has increased Berkshire’s book value per share, a measure of assets minus liabilities, more than 5,800- fold since he took control of the company in 1965. The Class A shares closed at a record $152,750 on March 1 and rallied 30 percent in the past year as Buffett bought back stock and struck a deal to take Pittsburgh-based ketchup maker HJ Heinz Co. private.
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