For the millions of people who attended Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting on Saturday, attentive viewers were rewarded with unexpected news: Who will be the company’s next CEO.
Asked if the company would end up being too complicated to run, Berkshire’s 97-year-old vice-president, Charlie Manger, made a comment that was not so surprising, at least at first glance.
“Greg will keep the culture,” Manger said simply, explaining that the company’s decentralized nature would outlive both him and Warren Buffett.
But that was enough to hint to some Berkshire observers who were wondering about plans to inherit the conglomerate after Buffett̵
The impression was accurate, CNBC can confirm.
“The directors are unanimous that if something happens to me tonight, Greg will take over tomorrow morning,” Buffett said. He praised both Greg Abel and Vice President Ajit Jane, who manages all Berkshire’s insurance operations.
Greg Abel at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, California. May 1, 2021
Gerard Miller CNBC
Both were seen as running for the top job as they were promoted to vice presidents of the company in 2018. “If, God forbid, something happens to Greg tonight, it will be Ajit,” he said. Buffett, adding that age is a determining factor for the board. Abel is 59 and Jane is 69. “They’re both wonderful boys. But there’s a real difference in the likelihood of someone having a 20-year-old track.”
The question of who would take over after Buffett has been a source of speculation for more than 15 years. For years, it was assumed that Buffett’s successor would be David Sokol, who ran both MidAmerican Energy, now called Berkshire Hathaway Energy, and NetJets for Berkshire. But Sokol left Berkshire in 2011 after it was revealed that he had acquired a $ 10 million stake in chemical company Lubrizol shortly before recommending Berkshire to buy the company.
From Buffett’s point of view, Munger simply acknowledges what is common practice on the board of directors. “We’ve always had a general consensus in Berkshire on who should take over the next day,” Buffett said. “The world is paying more attention now.”