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Homefinance‘Buffett is more than an investor-he’s a brilliant marketer and leader,’ says...

‘Buffett is more than an investor-he’s a brilliant marketer and leader,’ says tech CFO after his first Berkshire Hathaway meeting

Good morning. For some finance leaders, a pilgrimage to hear the Oracle of Omaha alongside tens of thousands of investors can spark inspiration and boost motivation.
The Oracle, of course, is Warren Buffett, who took over Berkshire Hathaway in 1965 and still leads the investment company today. The 93-year-old continues to provide food for thought during the company’s annual shareholder meeting that has been called “Woodstock for Capitalists.” This year’s shareholder meeting, held on May 4 in Omaha, was his first since the passing of longtime business partner Charlie Munger.
Buffett offered predictions on topics from whether scammers will seize on AI to “higher taxes are likely.” Berkshire (no. 7 on the Fortune 500) reported record operating earnings in Q1, increasing 39% to $11.222 billion from last year’s $8.065 billion. Revenue grew 5% to $89.87 billion in the quarter. And the company’s cash pile continued to grow to a record $188.993 billion in the quarter.
There has been a popular LinkedIn post about Berkshire’s shareholder meeting circulating among finance professionals. It was penned by Jonté Harrell, CFO at ZenLedger, a tech company that provides tax and compliance software for digital assets (with the IRS among its clients). He attended the annual meeting this year for the first time.
I reached out to Harrell, who told me that Buffett’s insights have been helpful to him throughout his career. “I was fortunate to graduate from Columbia Business School, where Buffett himself was inspired by professors Ben Graham and David Dodd,” he said.
For instance, Harrell pointed to what he calls one of Buffett’s quintessential quotes: “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” Valuation is a fundamental, but is often a miscalculated consideration in finance, Harrell said.
“Broader than investing, business leaders and consumers make strategic and heuristic decisions based on perceived value or utility,” he explained. “In my career, whether modeling the price-demand relationship of Prime benefits at Amazon to software pricing at ZenLedger, cost-value based analysis is a constant theme.”
He added that along with investing advice, Buffett offers a lot of advice about life: how to live (ethically, and below your means), how to do business (with emotional discipline), and how to give back (through The Giving Pledge), he said.
In Harrell’s LinkedIn post, one of the lessons he shares from Berkshire’s shareholder event is to be a brand. “Despite $100 million in earnings a day, Buffett is more than an investor—he’s a brilliant marketer and leader,” he writes. Adding that, “40,000 investors flocked to Nebraska and many spoke beyond money, [but] of being motivated and inspired.”
For Harrell, the event was more than a meeting, it was an experience. “It felt like a reunion where everyone was focused and attentive,” he wrote in his post. “Already, friends and former colleagues reached out wanting to go in 2025—I’ll have company next year.”
Have you attended a Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting? What was your experience? Send me an email.
Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com
Leaderboard
Doreen Pryor was named CFO at LanzaJet, Inc., a sustainable fuels technology company and sustainable fuel producer. Pryor has more than 20 years of commercial and financial experience at global companies. Pryor joins LanzaJet following her role as CFO for North America at Siemens Gamesa Renewable Inc. She previously had led financial planning and analysis of Siemens Gamesa’s offshore wind business unit.
Sumit Kapur was named CFO at Zapata Computing Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: ZPTA), an industrial generative AI company, effective May 20, and as Zapata AI’s VP of finance during a short transition period, effective May 13. He will succeed Mimi Flanagan, who is leaving the company for personal reasons. Sumit spent nearly 12 years serving as CFO at 3Degrees, a financial services and technology company in the energy sector. He has also worked in investment banking at firms including Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan.
Big Deal
The Benchmark of Ethical Culture Report by LRN Corporation, an ethics and compliance (E&C) solutions company, is based on a survey of more than 8,500 employees at major organizations and corporations in 15 different countries and from 13 different industries. The research found that companies with strong ethical cultures have lower rates of observed misconduct.
One of the key findings is that most senior and executive leaders surveyed “walk the talk” of company values. However, middle managers, not so much. This year’s gap between leaders and middle managers (37 percentage points) is the largest since LRN began tracking this topic, according to the report.
Middle managers, as those with whom most employees directly interact, are visible role models. This gap highlights the opportunity companies have to better support managers.
Another finding is executive and senior leaders are 2.6 times more likely to say their company has a strong ethical culture than individual contributors and front-line employees. This illustrates a leadership disconnect with the realities on the ground, according to LRN.
Going deeper
“What’s next in chips,” a new report in the MIT Technology Review, explores how Big Tech, startups, AI devices, and trade wars will transform the way chips are made. The report explains four trends to look for in the year ahead, including who will make them and which new technologies they’ll unlock.
Overheard
“Boards can adopt ethical AI practices that safeguard stakeholder interests and humanity at large while also meeting the fiduciary duty to their shareholders. Not only can ethical behavior enhance a company’s reputation and trustworthiness, but it also lays the foundation for enduring success.”
—Jeffrey Saviano, an AI ethicist, writes in a Fortune opinion piece. He holds an appointment in the Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.

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