Billionaire investor Warren Buffet hints at his successors, discusses tech investments
The behemoth investment firm of Berkshire Hathaway recently concluded its annual shareholder’s meeting, where challenges and strategies are typically discussed and the future is pondered upon. This time, however, the attendants also got a glimpse of who might succeed legendary chief executive Warren Buffet to take up the company reins.
Mr. Buffet, 88, and vice chairman Charlie Munger, 95, were faced with a torrent of questions regarding succession, but a straightforward answer wasn’t forthcoming. A clue was eventually offered when Mr. Buffet indicated that deputies Greg Abel and Ajit Jain (both promoted to the board of directors last year) were available to take questions. The two mostly fielded questions related to energy investments and insurance.
Abel, 57, joined the firm in 1992 in the energy division and has overseen all non-insurance activities for more than a year. On the other hand, Jain, 67, joined the ship in the insurance division and is currently leading it. Mr. Buffet strongly believes that both of them are highly capable men who will do an excellent job at the top.
Addressing the shareholders, the “Oracle of Omaha” said, “The truth is Charlie and I are afraid of looking bad, those guys are better than we are. They know the businesses better, they work harder by far, and you are absolutely invited to ask questions to be directed over to them at this meeting.”
“You could not have two better-operating managers than Greg and Ajit. It’s just fantastic what they’ve accomplished,” he added.
Mr. Munger, meanwhile, dismissed questions about the most likely candidate for the top job by emphasizing on the unconventional nature of his firm.
“One of the reasons we have trouble with these questions is because Berkshire is so very peculiar. We have a different, kind of unbureaucratic way of making decisions,” said Mr. Munger.
Furthermore, Berkshire Hathaway’s stake in technology companies was also discussed. Having recently revealed an investment in e-commerce giant Amazon, Mr. Buffet and Mr. Munger were subjected to a plethora of questions related to investments in tech companies, especially in the Silicon Valley area as they make up a very small percentage of the firm’s overall portfolio.
Mr. Buffet praised Amazon’s phenomenal rise by calling it “close to a miracle”, while Mr. Munger reminisced about the time he and his partner missed out on Google, a decision they regret to this day.
“We just sat there sucking our thumbs,” he said. “We screwed up.”
However, there does not appear to be any clear indication of more tech investments, other than the recent stake in Amazon and a $40 billion stake in Apple.