Warren Buffett says successor is ‘better than I am’

Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A, BRK-B) CEO Warren Buffett, who will turn 90 years old in August, says he has a successor in mind to someday take over the Nebraska-based company, declaring that the business does not depend on his leadership.

“Berkshire doesn’t need me,” Buffett told Yahoo Finance’s editor-in-chief Andy Serwer in an exclusive interview on March 10 in Omaha, Nebraska. “We’ve got somebody that’s extremely better than I am in many, many, many respects to succeed me.”

Buffett did not specify who the successor will be, saying, “It depends what happens to me, and what happens to other people.”

Speculation about possible successors

In 2018, Buffett added senior executives Gregory Abel and Ajit Jain to its Board of Directors, both with the title of vice chairman, fueling speculation that they were the front-runners to succeed him. The 57-year-old Abel rose through the company’s energy division; while 68-year-old Jain has overseen the company’s insurance operations.

Another potential successor, Todd Combs, 49, took over as the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway-owned car insurer Geico in January, after serving as an investment manager at the company for a decade. Observers also point to current portfolio manager Ted Weschler, 57, who arrived at the company in 2011, not long after buying lunch with Buffett at auction two straight years for a combined $5.2 million.

SUN VALLEY, ID – JULY 12: Todd Combs, investment manager at Berkshire Hathaway, attends the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 12, 2019 in Sun Valley, Idaho. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Buffett has said on several occasions that he has a successor picked out, going back at least to 2012.

Buffett, who has run Berkshire Hathaway since 1965, confirmed that it has succession plans in an annual shareholder letter released in February. Acknowledging that he and 96-year-old business partner Charlie Munger would someday leave the company, Buffett writes, “Berkshire shareholders need not worry: Your company is 100% prepared for our departure.”

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett appears on “Influencers with Andy Serwer”

In the letter, Buffett cited senior management as a key reason why the company will remain successful.

“We possess skilled and devoted top managers for whom running Berkshire is far more than simply having a high-paying and/or prestigious job,” Buffett writes.

Read more: Warren Buffett: Lessons from a legendary investor

Speaking with Yahoo Finance, Buffett pointed to the companies in which Berkshire Hathaway holds its largest stakes, which include Apple (AAPL) and Bank of America (BAC), asserting that they all have succession plans even if they don’t publicize the name of the successor.

“I don’t know who the successor is to the CEO in any one of those 10,” he says. “And I’ve watched a lot of successors come and go in those holdings. So to think that we wouldn’t have somebody, well, it’s just crazy.”

Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting will be broadcast live on Yahoo Finance.

Buffett made the comments during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment. 

For more than five decades, Buffett has run Berkshire Hathaway, which wholly owns over 60 companies, including Geico and Dairy Queen, and holds minority stakes in JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Coca-Cola (KO), among others. He has a net worth of $82.5 billion and has vowed to give away nearly all of it as part of The Giving Pledge.

When Serwer joked that the successor probably isn’t pop singer Justin Bieber, the Oracle of Omaha replies, “It isn’t even Elon Musk.”

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