If Capitalism is a circus, I want front row seats.
July 6, 2007 6:02 PM   Subscribe

I live in Seattle, and want to invest a small amount, simply based on best stockholder's meetings. I can invest in 6 companies a month, more are possible, but the fee structure changes. I'd like to just rotate through different companies each month, till I've built up a portfolio of free lunches and entertainment.

There's an online service that lets you invest a set dollar amount each month, for a set fee, spreading the investments across up to 6 different stocks each month. I have regular retirement investments elsewhere, the goal here is to have a wide portfolio of local companies, with fun, or at least intriguing, stockholders' meetings. Free food is nice, free product is cool too, but I'm also interested in companies most likely to have raucous meetings, where I can see the fur fly.
posted by nomisxid to Work & Money (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Don't believe what you see on TV. Shareholder's meetings have zero entertainment value. If you don't have a significant amount of money bet on a particular horse to win, they are the driest events imaginable.
posted by mediaddict at 6:27 PM on July 6, 2007

This is a decent starting point:

google: seattle (shareholder OR investor) meeting annual
posted by zippy at 6:29 PM on July 6, 2007

Your best bet with a small amount of money is to invest in startups that haven't made an IPO.. if you go to a business incubator, you'll be able to find plenty that would love your money. That said, its a shitty investment. Companies that have made an IPO are probably going to require a pretty decent investment to sit in on a shareholder's meeting.
posted by devilsbrigade at 6:47 PM on July 6, 2007

Alternately, you could go for co-ops. For a very small (comparatively) yearly fee they'll let you go to all the meetings you want (and you'll see lots of fireworks). Of course, if you don't get anything out of the co-op, its not really an investment at all.
posted by devilsbrigade at 6:48 PM on July 6, 2007

What?! You guys are crazy! All shareholders are allowed to attend the annual meetings! I know a lot of people seem to think that all of Capitalism is run by 35 fat guys in a dim, oak-paneled room smoking cigars, but that's, you know, hyperbole, not the literal truth. Corporations at least pay lip service to openness and transparency. I don't know about fractional shares (does your broker even do that?), but when you have at least one share, you can go to the meeting. I suppose different states could have different rules on this, and I'm open to being refuted by a corporate lawyer, but I'm damn near certain that there's no general cutoff for who may attend a shareholders meeting other than the bare holding of shares.

The dirty little secret, though, is that going to a shareholders meeting is about as fun as watching paint dry, and even major investors with a real stake in the company can't usually be bothered. They vote on the members of the board, and the panel recommended by the current board always wins. Then an exec gets up and spouts some platitudes about why next year's revenue is going to be higher than ever before. This boredom and predictability is why every public company allows proxy voting, and why "virtual" meetings and teleconferences are so popular. Nonetheless, some do still have live shareholders meetings and if this is really an itch for some reason, I say go ahead and scratch it.

I used a simpler version of zippy's search string, "seattle shareholders meeting", and discovered that at least Starbucks, Tully's, and something called F5 have meetings there. Microsoft is pretty close by in Bellevue. There's probably a way to search for this on Yahoo Finance, but I'll leave that to you. Just buy a share each of those guys, go to the first meeting that's scheduled, and see if you ever, ever want to go to another shareholders meeting again.
posted by rkent at 7:27 PM on July 6, 2007

Usually, you need to be in possession of a substantial number of shares before you're granted that kind of access that you're talking about.

Companies that have made an IPO are probably going to require a pretty decent investment to sit in on a shareholder's meeting.

No, and no. Any shareholder, even if you own just one share, is entitled to attend the shareholders meeting (hence the name). You just need to bring some proof that you are a shareholder as of the record date for the meeting, such as a broker's statement, and you can just walk in the door. However, seating may be intentionally limited and it is usually first come first serve. They may also hold the shareholder meeting in some remote location, such as Hawaii, just to make it harder for people to attend and they don't have to answer questions.

In most cases they are very boring affairs. Less than 20 people may attend, which includes the officers, the board of directors and a handful of others. These are usually vested employees and a few retired shareholders that have nothing better to do with their time. You'll be lucky if you get a cup of coffee and a doughnut. Many will not have an open question and answer period. If they do, they sometimes will gavel the open and close of questions at the same time, especially if they expect embarrassing activist shareholders to be present.

Lavish affairs like you hear about at Bershire Hathaway and Microsoft are very much the exception rather than the rule. Some will have detailed presentations explaining their financials and future prospects. Others will just go through the formalities and finish up in 20 minutes. That said, I would encourage you to attend a couple just to get a feel for what goes on. To save yourself some money, you might just try walking in without documentation. Most don't care and the worst they can do is ask you to leave.
posted by JackFlash at 7:28 PM on July 6, 2007

Best answer: Shareholder meetings aren't where its at.

You want to hit up analyst/investor days. Basically the company rolls out the top execs for a day usually at a nice hotel. You'll get breakfast and lunch interrupted by interminable powerpoint presentations that will seem to be telling people a lot, but actually tell them nothing. Often you company swag at the end (my favorite gift was a concrete Venus de Milo from a German cement company)

The really good analyst days can also involve plant tours and maybe a boozy dinner. All you really need to do to score an invite is call up the company and make up some random company name that ends in "Capital Partners" or "Asset Management" and ask to be invited.

Having said that analyst events are as much fun as watching paint dry. I spend a great deal of time trying to avoid them, so I can't imagine going to the them for fun, but if that's what you want to do, then go for it.

If you want to see fur fly your best bet would be to go to sec.gov and search for form 13d's filed on companies based in Seattle. These days that is usually the first step activists take in seeking change at a company. I would note that most of the fur flies in these letters, and not at the meetings. Full-fledged proxy battles that would take place at the shareholders meeting are expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to win.
posted by JPD at 7:56 PM on July 6, 2007

Best answer: I belong to a stock club. Many of our members skip work to go to the annual Starbucks meeting. Some retirees in our club buy stocks in companies that Bill Gates owns, and then go to the annual meetings to gawk. You might want to check out Costco and Expediter's International as well. They're local Seattle companies and are well-managed. The Expediter's filings with the SEC are legendary for their humor. Attending annual meetings is not my thing, I'd rather be analyzing stocks.

If you like big machinery and the wild and really want to have fun though, look into buying some Canadian oil sand stocks, and then take vacation and go visit your investments. Some of these companies love having their investors visit, and will take you on great tours.
posted by slowstarter at 9:18 PM on July 6, 2007

Response by poster: To clarify, I'm talking about shareholders' meetings, not board meetings.

This broker does do fractional shares.

RKent, Jackflash and Sculpin, thanx for the excellent ideas. I'd completely spaced on the idea local food/beverage related companies.
posted by nomisxid at 9:43 PM on July 6, 2007

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