- Warren Buffett praised the couple who acquired Squishmallows and made the toy an internet sensation.
- Berkshire Hathaway owns Jazwares after acquiring the parent company in October.
- “Jazwares is a gem,” Buffett told Reuters. “And, Judd and Laura are the ideal Berkshire managers.”
Squishy toys, endless candy, and Warren Buffett in a disco suit: Peek inside the ‘Bazaar of Bargains’ at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting
Berkshire shareholders gathered in force outside the CHI Health Center on Friday.
A giant meeting pass greeted shareholders when they entered the exhibition hall.
Pampered Chef welcomed customers with a cardboard cutout of Warren Buffett, complete with special-edition scrapers.
See’s Candies went with a “Warren Buffett meets Saturday Night Fever” theme this year.
There were long lines to snag Jazwares’ Buffett-themed Squishmallow.
Charlie Munger, Buffett’s 99-year-old business partner, also had his own squishy toy.
Buffett and Munger made an appearance as rubber ducks too.
Borsheims’ booth also featured cardboard cutouts of the two investors.
Brooks Running took a similar tack.
Geico’s booth featured a massive inflatable gecko.
BNSF Railway’s model railroad featured loads of Berkshire businesses, including Pilot Flying J, a recent acquisition.
Garanimals, a Berkshire-owned children’s clothing company, was also on the side of the tracks.
A bunch of Buffett and Munger’s recommended books were on sale.
Duracell’s booth featured a battery-powered supercar.
Shaw Carpets’ doghouse was a hit among shareholders.
Buffett showcased a bunch of other subsidiaries including Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices, a residential real estate business.
Berkshire also showcased a full-sized manufactured house from Clayton Homes.
Shareholders were able to try a flight simulator at FlightSafety International.
Nebraska Furniture Mart was jammed with people buying home goods.
Fruit of the Loom also attracted a lot of attention.
Dairy Queen’s sweet treats drew big crowds as well.
The couple who bought Squishmallows and launched the toy into internet stardom also have a fan in investing legend Warren Buffett.
Judd and Laura Zebersky run Jazwares, whose parent company was bought by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway last fall.
“Jazwares is a gem,” Buffett told Reuters through email. “And, Judd and Laura are the ideal Berkshire managers.”
Though Berkshire Hathaway holds stakes in a number of toy makers that made an appearance during the company’s annual meeting earlier this month, the Squishmallow plushie was especially popular.
Squishmallows made to look like Buffett and longtime partner Charlie Munger sold at $10 during the meeting, with some later appearing on eBay for $450.
But consumer enthusiasm for the toy has earlier origins. Introduced by Kellytoy in 2017, Jazwares took over the company and realized the plushies could be a great hit with the right marketing, according to Reuters.
Through TikTok and Reddit, Squishmallows quickly gained a following, as collectors shared their toys and influencers joined the trend. In 2021, Jazwares generated sales of more than $1 billion, with 40% coming from Squishmallows.
“This was a brand that needed a lot of love,” Judd Zebersky told Reuters. “It struck a nerve, and when you strike a nerve in the toy industry, great things can happen.”
He founded Jazwares in 1997, after finding a life in litigation unappealing. He was followed by his wife eight years later, who sold her law firm in 2005 and became Jazwares’ president.
In order to expand, the company sold a minority stake to Alleghany, which turned into a majority stake two years later. Alleghany was acquired by Berkshire last October for nearly $12 billion, placing Jazwares under Buffett’s umbrella.
The Zeberskys now report to Greg Abel, a Berkshire vice chairman who is to be Buffett’s successor as CEO.
“Greg is exactly what we have all learned about the Berkshire model,” Laura Zebersky told Reuters. “He lets us run our business, he lets us operate in the way we see best.”