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Suggestions Please! Fairfax Financial 2011 Shareholder's Dinner!


Parsad
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Hi Folks,

 

Now that summer is almost over, I'm in the process of planning the early stages of next year's Fairfax Financial Shareholder's Dinner.  For five years, we've held the dinner at Joe Badali's.  In our first year we had about 9 people show up, then about 23, then 34 and 48, and in our fifth year we hit about 70!  

 

The private room we use in the back of Joe Badali's was jam packed last year, and they do have a neighbouring room we could expand to, but unfortunately the kitchen noise would be obtrusive, especially when our guest speakers arrive.  Even with a speaker and microphone this year, it was sometimes difficult to hear because the kitchen noise was so loud.

 

In this our fifth year, with tremendous generosity from our attendees, we raised $4,870 for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of Canada.  The funds were in memory of Prem's executive assistant, and our dear friend, JoAnn Butler.  We will continue the dinner going forward in memory of JoAnn.

 

Now, this is where I need ideas and suggestions from boardmembers, in particular, those that attend the dinner.  I have a couple of ideas for our 2011 Fairfax Shareholder's Meeting (held the night before Fairfax's AGM), but each has their own positives and negatives:

 

1)  Continue to hold the dinner at Joe Badali's.  Use the private room only for seating and listening to speakers.  Dinner held in neighbouring room next to kitchen.  

 

Positives:  Continuity at Joe Badali's; Costs would be only admission and you pay for your own dinner.

Negatives:  Outgrowing the place; Kitchen noise still affects private room.

 

2)  Hold the dinner at a hotel...maybe a smaller ballroom.

 

Positives:  Unlimited space to grow; Quieter environment for speakers.

Negatives:  Costs will be significantly higher to attend;  Set menu or buffet, so cost per person will be higher.

 

3)  Book a large room at either the Metro-Toronto Convention Centre, or perhaps even at Roy Thomson Hall where Fairfax's meeting and the MPIC AGM are already booked.  No dinner, but we would have h'or d'oeurves and a cash bar.

 

Positives:  Enough space for seating; Cost significantly lower than the hotel; Quiet environment for speakers; Familiarity for Fairfax attendees; Slightly lower or roughly the same cost as what the average attendee to Joe Badali's would normally pay.

Negatives:  No dinner gathering

 

I'm leaning towards 3) and then 1), but please give me your feedback.  Remember, we have very wealthy patrons who attend the dinner and some shareholders that are significantly younger and not quite as well to do, so we would like the environment and cost to be accessible to any shareholder who wants to attend.  Look forward to your responses!  Cheers!

 

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In speaking for myself, 80-90% of the value from this gathering is the special FFH related guest speakers and 10-20% is from getting together and interacting with like-minded individuals.  The evening would be completely different if there were no guest speakers.  Where it is and how much it costs isn't that important.  Guest speakers are the key.  Just my 2 cents.

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Hi Sanj,

 

I've been to two dinners. I love the guests, it's always great, but mingling with people from the board is the highlight for me.  Turn it into an evening focused on the speakers and it'll be like a roadshow, might as well tune into the webcast after the event.  ;)

 

Seriously though, I appreciate the informality of the night and sitting beside people whom I know solely by moniker.

 

I like your option dinner at a hotel, start the evening off with a cash bar and mingling for boardmembers and invitees.

 

Costs won't be that much higher because we all pay for dinner anyway. Have people paypal in advance to confirm numbers and payment and then we're off to the races.

 

P.S. If you ever want any help with anything, email me, or even ask the board, I'm sure you'd have volunteers aplenty with just about any task that you'd like to farm out.

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Sanj, I am with Estimated Profit.  I come 80% to meet the other members of the board.  Moving the location to a number 2 option would be ideal.  Part of the problem with Bidali's is that they want us out by about 10 pm and there is pressure to order dinner.  Where we were once a small and intimate group we had both time to chat with other board members and hear Francis, Sam, or Brian talk.  We have now had to sacrifice the informal talking in favour of the speakers. 

 

A buffett in a hotel would be a fabulous option, albeit more expensive.  We could start earlier and finish later.  An hour in there for the FFH speakers, if they come.  Recognizing that some members may not be as well off I am sure we could arrange something to help cover their dinner.  That I have no problem with as the board members have given me so much. 

 

Al.

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I am for keeping the dinner at Joe Bardi's as I think it is nice informal atmosphere.  With regard to the "speakers' I have a different take - when the guests from FFH arrive, I suggest the each one sit down at a different table and have a drink and discussion with the individual table.  That would get a lot more discussions and questions going.  As this board is so good, I am sure someone from each table could post the highlights of the discussion on the board.  So if we had 4 "speakers" there for an hour, we could gain 4 hours of knowledge through the board.  My 4 cents  :)

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Comment I received by email:

 

Hi Sanjeev --

 

Since I'm a reader of the Corner of Berkshire & Fairfax Board and not a writer, I thought I'd write you with my preference re: the Fairfax dinner.  My preference is as follows:

 

2. Since I have to eat anyway I prefer it with dinner.  As to cost, I would be happy to contribute more than the cost of my dinner.  I would not like to see any attendee not come because of the cost of dinner.  If 2 or more will contribute the cost of a meal at McDonalds, I'll be happy to pick up the rest.

 

3.  Good, but I still have to eat dinner.

 

1. OK

 

I really appreciate the attendance of the guest speakers.  I'll agree to anything they wish.  2nd I like the interface with the board members and Fairfax shareholders.  I guess dinner comes in 3rd.

 

Cheers!

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Of course we all attend because of Fairfax, but I truly enjoy meeting the other board members, from the new, to the old days of 'Stockhouse.com'.

 

I am would say Joe's is still good for a another year or two, but just begin a skosh earlier and we all can chip in for the charity and sound system.

 

 

Cheers

JEast

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I like the hotel idea with a buffet and cash bar as it provides more opportunity to mingle with boardmembers as well as a quieter environment for the speakers and better control of timetable, setup, etc. 

 

I imagine this would not be significantly more expensive than renting a room of a restaurant, and I would be willing to contribute extra if there are people who would like to attend but are concerned about the cost of this very worthwhile event. I especially think this would be nice for people who would like to come early to mingle, without the contraints of being seated at a table at the restaurant or stuck in a noisy bar.

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I have previously made a suggestion to move to a different venue because of the problems with J Badali.

 

My preference would be for (2). Except for the cost, it has the most advantages. Can the cost problem be solved by allowing people two options - attend with or without dinner? With a hotel, we could also have round tables (much better for exchange of ideas) and if the speakers would agree to spread themselves out to different tables, the event would be more productive for attendees.

 

My sense is that the marginal cost of the hotel option (+$30?) is more than the additional benefit we would get. It's like the case of buying a good business at a fair price vs. buying a lousy business at a cheap price.

 

Why don't you do a poll (of those who intend to attend only) to see how many would be deterred by the cost? (Poll maintains anonymity presumably.). If the numbers are small, we could let them attend without dinner or, as others have suggested, let them be subsidised by others paying a few dollars more each.

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Good ideas everyone!  Oec, I like the idea of a poll, as well as the idea of having two groups...those that would like to attend the dinner and presentation and those that would like to attend the presentation. 

 

The only problem is that we have no guarantee from Fairfax that someone will come to our dinner.  Of course, they've never let us down and Francis always shows up...neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet or hail can keep Francis away...but I've never had any sort of verbal agreement with Fairfax to have guests.  Prem has just graciously done it and the fantastic guys from Hamblin-Watsa have no interest in letting Prem or the shareholders down.  I just don't want people to expect them to always be there...something could come up and they may be busy...thus the reason we do the dinner, so at least boardmembers can interact and have a good time.  Cheers!

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Sanjeev,

 

Will somewhere like the Royal York do a room with a meal for 50-75 people on a per person rate?

Like $40 each for dinner (simple, but with a couple pre-order options), but no added cost for "renting the room".

So you just charge us for the meal (the rental is built in) and anyone that doesn't want to eat/pay just comes later for the cash bar and potential Q&A session (like others have mentioned).

 

I always have a ton of fun that night...

 

Not sure if I count in the 1st year number, or if I count for 0.5, 1, 1.5 or 2 of the 9 people! ; )

I recently tied the knot with my very accommodating partner from that evening...

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Congratulations Jordan!  Yes, you definitely count in that first group...anyone who has the balls to bring his girlfriend to an investing gathering on his first date, and then somehow get her to marry him, is a talented guy worthy of some note. 

 

In regards to the hotel, I'm trying to get some ideas and feelings about the event from attendees, and then I'll work out various quotes to see what is the best fit for the price and our needs.  Cheers!

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It'd be helpful to put an approximate price on the hotel option.  Are we talking $20/40/100/etc?

 

Also, the FFH guys typically wander by after sup.  Might there be a desire to snag another speaker, or two, for earlier on?  I bet we could find an interesting value manager for the event.  It might also encourage the FFH guys to get there earlier ;) 

 

Btw, several of us get together at 5ish for drinks.  Perhaps the main event can start with drinks/mingling at 5?

 

(Feel free to ignore these random ideas :) )

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Another email:

 

Summer is almost over. The mosquito's are back in Winnipeg now. They

never really left, but the weather this year did not allow them

procreate.

 

At anyrate, why not drop the FFH Dinner portion. Start at 7:30-7:45.

Call it something other than a wine and cheese. Maybe a smoker (

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/smoker

an informal gathering, esp. of men, for entertainment, discussion, or

the like). The content is worth more than the food.

 

Cheers!

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I like the hotel option with an early start and maybe as Norm mentioned invite other investors if they want to mingle before the talk.  I had a great conversation with Martin V. last year.  We can set the admissions to subsidize those who have the interest but not the $.

 

 

Packer 

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Personally, I cannot get enough and attend the pre-dinner drinks hosted by James and continue the discussion at the pub after the restaurant closes.  For the many that do not live in TO, the cost of travel and hotels is much greater than the dinner.

 

Option #1, Joe Badali was great at the beginning but I think that the group has outgrown their capacity.  I believe that the attendance had to be capped last year.  If the trend continues, even more people will have to be excluded.

 

Option #2, Seems like the best option.  We all need to eat and would like to make the most of this special evening.  I am sure that we will be able to come up with fair and friendly solution for those who have difficulty to pay the extra $$.

 

Option #3, This is also a good option, but we need to eat, so we will end up losing one or two hours.

 

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