Wesco shareholders approve $545M sale to Berkshire
Saturday, June 25, 2011
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Shareholders in Wesco Financial, a conglomerate that Warren Buffett and his sidekick Charlie Munger first took control of in 1973, voted Friday to sell the remaining 20 percent of the company’s stock to Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Berkshire will buy the more than 1.4 million shares it doesn’t already own for $385 per share, or $545.4 million.
A special Wesco shareholder meeting was held Friday near the company’s Pasadena, Calif., headquarters. About 64 percent of the shares not held by Berkshire and about 93 percent of the shares overall supported the deal. Wesco’s board recommended the deal to shareholders in February.
Wesco shareholders will get a combination of cash and Class B shares of Berkshire stock as part of the deal.
Wesco is a conglomerate owning insurance businesses and an eclectic mix of operating companies, similar to Berkshire but smaller and less diverse. Berkshire announced its intent to buy the outstanding Wesco shares last September, but the deal wasn’t formally announced until February.
Munger and Buffett took control of Wesco in 1973 through one of their other investments, the Blue Chip Stamp Co., which later became part of Berkshire.
Wesco is led by Munger, Berkshire’s vice chairman, but the company has been run as a Berkshire subsidiary since 1983. Munger has consulted with Buffett on Wesco investment decisions and major capital allocations, much like Buffett, as Berkshire’s chairman and CEO, consults with Munger about Berkshire decisions.
The deal will likely save Berkshire money because it will eliminate the need for a separate Wesco annual meeting and separate reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The roughly 1,000 people who had been attending Wesco’s annual meetings regularly in recent years will be disappointed those meetings will end, but Munger plans to hold one more meeting on July 1.
The meeting won’t be a Wesco annual meeting, but Munger will spend several hours answering investor questions. The Wesco events have traditionally been one of the few occasions when investors could hear from Munger alone.
Munger and Buffett spend the better part of a Saturday answering questions together at Berkshire’s annual meetings each spring in Omaha, before more than 30,000.
Wesco has a reinsurance division and it owns Kansas Bankers Surety Co., which offers specialized insurance to banks; CORT Business Services, which rents furniture to companies; and Precision Steel, which buys scrap metal, cuts it to order and resells it. Wesco itself had just 13 employees at the end of 2009.
Wesco is one of Berkshire’s more than 80 subsidiaries. Berkshire owns clothing, insurance, furniture, utility, jewelry and corporate jet companies. The Omaha-based Berkshire also has big investments in companies including Coca-Cola Co. and Wells Fargo & Co.
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.: www.berkshirehathaway.com
Wesco Financial: www.wescofinancial.com
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