Berkshire Hathaway Inc BRK'B:NYSE

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Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway to Hold Annual Meeting Without Investors as COVID-19 Crowd-Gathering Bans Grow

9:34AM ET 3/13/2020 MT Newswires
Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A, BRK.B), Warren Buffett's conglomerate with holdings that stretch from media to insurance and a railway, will hold its annual meeting without any shareholders present as the spread of COVID-19 prompts a host of changes public gatherings.

In a letter to shareholders posted on its website Friday, Buffett said attendance at the May 2 meeting will be limited to himself, several employees of Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire employees who will deliver proxy votes, and "possibly" Charlie Munger, vice chairman of the company.

"I very much regret this action; for many decades the annual meeting has been a high point of the year for me and my partner, Charlie Munger," Buffett said. "It is now clear, however, that large gatherings can pose a health threat to the participants and the greater community. 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."

The meeting will be live-streamed on Yahoo, Buffett said, adding that they would see "many thousands of you" in 2021. The Berkshire event adds to a growing list of changes to public gatherings as the new coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, continues to spread around the world. Almost 5,000 people around the world have died, and 135,000 people have fallen ill, according to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University.

On Thursday, Cboe Global Markets (CBOE) said it would close its options exchange trading floor in Chicago as a precautionary measure against COVID-19. New York Stock Exchange President Stacey Cunningham told CNBC that there were no plans yet to close that floor but if that needed to happen, trading could continue electronically. She said they tested their systems last weekend.

Sports leagues have broadly affected. The UK's Premier League, which includes Manchester United (MANU), said Friday it was suspending soccer games until April 4, subject to medical advice at that time. The National Hockey League said on Thursday it was pausing its season and Major League Baseball Thursday canceled spring training and pushed back the start of regular play.

Also on Friday, Wynn Resorts (WYNN) said it was canceling all large entertainment gatherings, including buffets, nightclubs and theaters in Las Vegas and Boston.

The company will also start temperature screening at entrances using thermal cameras, and "will create appropriate distancing between guests at gaming devices and dining tables, while still delivering the service levels our guests expect and deserve," Chief Executive Matt Maddox said in a statement.