[Posted by TMFMattyA on the Motley Fool's Berkshire Hathaway discussion board]Last Tuesday, Buck Hartzell (TMFBuck) and I drove down to Richmond to attend Markel's 2008 Annual Meeting of Shareholders. Below are some of the key takeaways from the meeting, along with our full notes from the proceedings.
(1) Chief Investment Officer Thomas Gayner called the current environment the best he's seen in his 18 years at Markel for buying best-of-breed companies at a discount. Pretty strong words from him there.
(2) Steve Markel thinks Markel should be valued at 2x Book Value. At the current book value (as of 3/31) of $263 Book value, that puts shares at $526.
(3) The culture at Markel is extremely strong. The employee owners (we call them that because they actually buy shares on the open market) are bought in to what Markel is doing. That is an incredible advantage for an insurer, or any business.
(4) Thomas Gayner thanked the underwriting side of the business when he first got up, saying he understands how hard it is to have such discipline and generate the money (float) that his team gets to invest. Their top investing priority is not to lose it.
(5) Thomas Gayner also said that bad times will always come and go. There have been many times in the past when people have predicted the worst (food and energy crises, runaway inflation, economic depression). It usually doesn't happen. :-)
Below are our full notes from the meeting, including the shareholder Q&A and some fantastic quotes from Thomas Gayner: