I don’t usually make a point of meeting or interviewing executives, mostly because I don’t want to be swayed by personal impressions of people who probably wouldn’t be in their position unless they were personable and appealing… but when you’re really dealing with a “bet the jockey” stock like Boston Omaha (BOMN), it is important to become comfortable with the strategy, demeanor and incentives of the management team.
So I went to my first Boston Omaha annual meeting last weekend in Boston — I would have had a hard time justifying a trip to Omaha for just this meeting, given my small position to date, but the investment of a Saturday and $40 for parking seemed reasonable for even your small town correspondent.
So now I’ve met the young co-CEOs, I’ve gotten quite a bit of color on their thinking and their operations, and I get to share some impressions with you that probably won’t be widely published elsewhere — I didn’t see any press there, the hotel meeting room was fairly full but it wasn’t a big place… I would guess there were probably 50 shareholders in attendance, plus friends and family and employee representatives from each of their divisions, and one analyst.
The co-CEOs, Alex Rozek and Adam Peterson, write a very good annual letter each year (2018’s is here), clearly inspired by Alex’s great-uncle Warren Buffett (Warren has no connection to the company, though his sister Doris is Alex’s grandmother), and also like Warren they make a point to call out the managers who make the divisions run… which leaves me with the impression that while the young “hedge fund guys” who are co-CEOs have potential… the real star of Boston Omaha right now, and the fuel for whatever growth they are likely to enjoy in the next few years, is 68-year-old Jim McLaughlin, CEO of Link Media (their billboard business and, by far, largest subsidiary).
There are a couple things that I found noteworthy during the annual meeting:
1. They didn’t publish a presentation for the annual meeting this year. With a foundation now established for the company, they just put up a single slide emphasizing the importance of their major divisions… which served further to illuminate the importance of Link Media. They did note that becoming a “cash flowing” company is, they think, an important inflection point.
2. They use ...