What You Need to Know
- Greg Abel is Berkshire Hathaway’s vice chairman of non-insurance businesses.
- He will "keep the culture," Charlie Munger says.
- Abel doesn't have Buffett's charisma but "exudes extreme competence and success,” a professor says.
Warren Buffett said Greg Abel, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s vice chairman of non-insurance businesses, would be his likely successor if the billionaire were to step down.
The board agrees that Abel, 58, would take over if anything were to happen to the 90-year-old chief executive officer, Buffett told CNBC. Abel had been seen as the most likely candidate.
Succession decisions had been a closely guarded secret at the conglomerate, even while the firm assured investors that it had a detailed plan in place. Ajit Jain, 69, was also often viewed as a potential pick given Buffett’s praise of the Berkshire vice chairman, who runs the insurance businesses. But age was a determining factor in the selection, according to Buffett.
“They’re both wonderful guys,” Buffett, who has spent five decades at the helm, told CNBC. “The likelihood of someone having a 20-year runway, though, makes a real difference.”
Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, 97, made a remark at Saturday’s annual meeting that stoked speculation Abel was the chosen successor. Buffett was talking about how decentralization wouldn’t work everywhere because it requires a certain type of culture.
“Yeah, but we do,” Munger said. “And Greg will keep the culture.”
Abel has long been seen as the most likely candidate to replace Buffett, given his age and his wide remit overseeing all the non-insurance businesses at the conglomerate. He joined a predecessor company in 1992 and later became part of Berkshire when Buffett bought MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. in 2000.
“The directors are in agreement that if something were to happen to me tonight, it would be Greg who’d take over tomorrow morning,” Buffett told CNBC. “We’ve always at Berkshire had basically a unanimous agreement as to who should take over the next day.”