Shareholders Shouldn’t Expect Surprises, Buffett Says
By Grace Shim
World-Herald Staff Writer
Security at Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s shareholders meeting will be enhanced after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but most changes will go unnoticed by those attending the meeting.
Berkshire’s gathering, this year on Saturday, annually draws thousands of shareholders from across the globe to Omaha’s Civic Auditorium.
After the terrorist attacks of last fall, security was tightened at airports, mailrooms, football games and other public events.
The Berkshire annual meeting is no exception. The most noticeable change for shareholders will be that the south, or Capitol Avenue entrance will provide the only way into the auditorium. Previously, entrances on both the south and north, which faces Chicago Street, were open.
The change was pointed out in the Berkshire’s 2002 Annual Shareholders Meeting Visitor’s Guide.
Berkshire Chairman Warren Buffett said in an interview that shareholders shouldn’t expect any surprises.
“We tell them everything in that visitor’s guide,” he said. “There would be nothing that they would be surprised about in terms of getting frisked or going through metal detectors.
“But there are things we do that everybody does in that field that it doesn’t make sense to talk about.”
Buffett also said that shareholders still will be able to get his autograph at public events.
The Berkshire meeting, which drew 12,000 shareholders in 2001, ranks second in the number of out-of-town visitors, behind the state high school track meet, which usually brings in about 15,000 visitors. The College World Series draws about 4,500, the Greater Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates.
Those thousands of shareholders at the Civic Auditorium and other Omaha events will keep Daniel Clark on his toes. Clark, of Omaha, is responsible for strategy and hiring the team who protects Berkshire executives during the annual meeting.
Clark, 37, has 16 years’ experience with the Omaha Police Department and is currently assigned to its Gang Suppression Squad and SWAT team.
“By design, the greatest portion of the security measures that are in place today at Berkshire Hathaway remain unseen by even the most interested observer,” he said.
For this year’s meeting, he would say only, “that obviously security will be enhanced since Sept. 11.”
What won’t change, Clark said, is that he and the others on his security team will be watching the crowd and looking for suspicious behavior.
Clark’s work protecting Berkshire executives began in 1995 when Susie Buffett, Warren Buffett’s daughter, struck up a conversation with him in a restaurant.
Clark told Susie Buffett about his background, which includes 22 years of martial arts training and 12 years as a certified defensive tactics instructor for police officers.
That chance meeting prompted Clark to take courses in executive protection from the U.S. Army and private consultants. He also formed his own executive protection company, Clark & Associates.
“But it is something that is labor intensive, to say the least.”