Gabelli, Rogers on Warren Buffett, Banking, Housing, Energy, Paramount

  • Five experts on Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway spoke ahead of this year’s annual meeting.
  • Mario Gabelli, John Rogers, Chris Bloomstran, Adam Mead, and Todd Finkle discussed the conglomerate.
  • The investors and authors touched on banking and housing pressures, and some of Buffett’s big bets.

Five experts on Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway weighed in on some of the famed investor’s key bets, as well as the challenging state of the US banking sector and the housing market, ahead of Berkshire’s annual shareholder meeting this weekend.

Mario Gabelli, the billionaire boss of Gamco Investors, blasted the mismanagement that led to the failures of Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank, and First Republic Bank. John Rogers, the co-CEO of Ariel Investments, said the painful impact of interest rates on house prices could lead to bargains emerging.

Chris Bloomstran, the head of Semper Augustus Investments, slammed a shareholder proposal calling for Buffett to be stripped of his chairman title. Todd Finkle, the author of “Warren Buffett: Investor and Entrepreneur,” emphasized the unique nature of Berkshire’s yearly gathering, which attracts tens of thousands of people from around the world.

Meanwhile, Adam Mead, the author of “The Complete Financial History of Berkshire Hathaway,” touted the underlying value of Berkshire Hathaway Energy,  and the savvy structure of Buffett’s conglomerate.

Here are their 10 best quotes, lightly edited for length and clarity:

1. “I classify it as a carnival, a rock concert, and a cult – all three.” (Finkle was describing Berkshire’s annual bash.)

2. “The banks screwed up. If you have $260,000 in a bank, I would be worried. If I were you, I’d take the $10,000 out!” (Gabelli was suggesting there’s no need to exceed the FDIC’s $250,000 limit on deposit insurance.)

3. “I think the stock goes from $17 to $50. I think Apple buys them.” (Gabelli was discussing Paramount, a recent Berkshire investment, and suggested Buffett might be anticipating a merger with Apple, his biggest holding.)

4. “There’s so much negativity out there. When everybody gets fearful, predicting dire consequences, we think that gives you opportunity.” (Rogers described the recent banking turmoil as a “difficult crisis period.”)

5. “The housing sector has gotten hurt pretty badly. There are so many bargains in that sector. When the recovery comes, we think they’re well-positioned to do very well.” (Rogers highlighted ADT and First American Financial as two of his stock picks.)

6. “We had all our eggs in one basket. As Charlie Munger says, the stock market shouldn’t be like Noah’s Ark, where you own two of everything.” (Rogers, a specialist on small and mid-cap stocks, was explaining his firm’s decision to launch a private equity fund.)

7. “Berkshire Hathaway Energy is going to become a powerhouse over the next decade. If it had a motto, it would probably read, ‘Milk me later.'” (Mead was underscoring the steady growth in profits at the utility business.)

8. “Well intended, but it’s really stupid. They should probably stick to their own knitting.” (Bloomstran on shareholder proposals arguing Buffett shouldn’t be both CEO and chairman of Berkshire, and the company should compile and publish energy-usage information from all of its subsidiaries.)

9. “Berkshire is the best bank in the world.” (Mead was underscoring the value of Berkshire to its subsidiaries, and noted that if See’s Candies held onto its excess profits instead of sending them to Buffett to allocate, it would have invested them poorly and become a “terrible business.”)

10. “I tell all my Chinese friends — for the benefit of the country, go make love.” (Gabelli was joking about the depressed birth rate in China.)

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