When retired journalist Carol Loomis stepped to the microphone at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting, she posed a question from the younger generation.
The apparent “millennial” (Loomis’ word) wanted to know what value Berkshire offers the companies in which it invests. Apple gives the world iPhones, while 3G Capital improves operations, he argued, but what does Berkshire do?
The investment conglomerate adds value through relief, responded Buffett, who noted that Berkshire does a lot of the dirty work for its portfolio companies. What it doesn’t do is meddle, he said.
“We certainly don’t add to value by calling them up and saying we developed a better system,” said Buffett. “We might very well free up about 20% of the time of a CEO just in terms of meeting with analysts, the calls and meeting with banks. Essentially, we relieve them so they can spend their time figuring out how to run their business.”
Buffett defended Berkshire’s relatively hands-off approach, while noting that the firm often serves as a protective shield from the public market while offering ample capital to the companies under its umbrella.
“Our abdication actually has some very positive value on the companies,” he said.
Buffett and vice chairman Charlie Munger will continue answering shareholder questions throughout the day. Follow Business Insider’s coverage of the event here.