Warren Buffett’s “Woodstock for Capitalists,” the nickname for Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s (NYSE:BRKA) annual shareholder weekend, has fallen victim to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
Berkshire’s billionaire chairman said Friday he had to cancel the largest gathering in corporate America because the safety of participants and the wider community was paramount.
The weekend normally attracts more than 40,000 people. It had been scheduled for May 1-3 in several locations across Omaha, Nebraska, where Berkshire is based.
Buffett said “events have moved very fast” since he discussed the weekend in his February 22 shareholder letter.
Berkshire’s annual meeting will still be live-streamed on May 2 on Yahoo Finance, but shareholders cannot physically attend, and surrounding events have been canceled.
“Large gatherings can pose a health threat to the participants and the greater community,” Buffett said. “We won’t ask this of our employees and we won’t expose Omaha to the possibility of becoming a ‘hot spot’ in the current pandemic.”
Buffett made the move after the World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. Countries and cities worldwide curbed large gatherings, and many companies canceled events or moved them online.
Omaha this year also will not host the College World Series of baseball, which the NCAA canceled on Thursday, for the first time since it moved there in 1950.
Berkshire’s annual meeting normally lasts about 15 minutes but is preceded by five hours in which Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger answer shareholder questions.
Health experts consider elderly people the most at risk of dying from the coronavirus. Buffett is 89 and Munger is 96.
The weekend has long been a high point for Buffett, who routinely mingles in close proximity to shareholders and fans, often with a horde of media nearby.