Warren Buffett’s letter shouts out possible successor Todd Combs

March 1, 2013
March 1, 2013

Warren Buffett’s annual letters to shareholders are closely analyzed for clues about the future of Berkshire Hathaway, but the Oracle of Omaha assured investors in his latest letter that the company would be left in good hands.

Buffett heaped praised on relatively new lieutenant Todd Combs, who is Buffett’s heir apparent and runs Berkshire’s investment portfolio along with Ted Weschler. Ajit Jain was also praised in the letter; he was earlier seen as a possible Buffett successor but may be too old for that role.

Buffett says Combs and Weschler “are young and will be around to manage Berkshire’s massive portfolio long after Charlie [Munger, Buffett's lawyer and close adviser] and I have left the scene. You can rest easy when they take over.” He also says they have proven “to be smart, models of integrity, helpful to Berkshire in many ways beyond portfolio management, and a perfect cultural fit.”

But he also heaped praise on Jain, who has been at Berkshire for more than 20 years and focuses on Berkshire’s insurance businesses. Buffett said Jain’s operation “combines capacity, speed, decisiveness and, most important, brains in a manner unique in the insurance business…If you meet Ajit at the annual meeting, bow deeply.”

Buffett also gave shouts out to CEOs of Berkshire portfolio companies, who were also once seen as possible successors to Buffett. He said he rubs his “eyes when I look at what Tony (Nicely of Geico) has accomplished.” He calls Matthew Rose of Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Greg Abel, of MidAmerican, “two outstanding CEOS.”

Buffett is 82, but is in relatively good health, despite his constant visits to Dairy Queen. Still, he did his best in his letter to show that Berkshire has a deep bench of capable managers to keep Berkshire humming after he is gone.

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