Friday, 2nd May 2014
Anyone who has attended the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting has his or her own favourite story to tell. Lyle McIntosh has many, but there is one he loves to repeat at the annual get-together of the Yellow BRK’ers, a community of Berkshire shareholders, at Omaha. McIntosh, an Iowa-based corn and soya bean farmer who first bought into Berkshire in 1985, has been attending the annual meeting since 1988 and is one of the original members of the Yellow BRK’ers, whose earlier gatherings were attended by Warren and his daughter Susie.
This is how McIntosh’s tale goes: Renting out pinball machines to barbershops was Warren’s first real business. To celebrate Warren’s 70th birthday in 2000, McIntosh and his fellow Yellow BRK’ers decided to take a trip down memory lane and bought a pinball machine as a gift.
The machine had a few kinks and McIntosh and Warren’s pinball business buddy Don Danley were fixing it in the store room of Berkshire’s office building. They had a know-it-all from Las Vegas for company, who squirted the machine with excessive contact cleaner and the machine suddenly exploded in flames. In the headquarters of one of the biggest insurance companies in the world, they couldn’t locate a fire extinguisher. Warren’s assistant, Debbie Bosanek, eventually contained the flames with a pitcher of water. McIntosh and Danley managed to clean up the machine and got it working partially before finally gifting it to Warren.
“That day, Warren took us out to Gorat’s Steak House and I asked Debbie if we had burned his office down, would he have still taken us out for lunch? She just laughed,” concludes McIntosh with a grin.
These days the Yellow BRK’ers’ gathering, which takes place a day before the big event, is a meeting ground for new and old attendees alike and this year, too, saw shareholders from Canada to Vietnam in attendance. The group’s mascot, a big ye