May 8, 2021

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When Warren Buffett is gone, Greg Appel will take over Berkshire

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett.
Image Credit: AP Photo / Nati Harnik

Omaha: Vice Chairman Greg Appel will succeed billionaire Warren Buffett as CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, according to a report.

Buffett confirmed the succession plan on Monday to CNBC after Berkshire Vice President Charlie Munger left the plan during the company’s annual meeting on Saturday. Buffett did not immediately respond to questions from the Associated Press about the plan on Monday.

The 90-year-old Buffett told CNBC that if anything happened to him, Abel would be the one taking the top job. He also said Vice Chairman Ajit Gene will succeed Abel, who currently oversees all non-insurance Berkshire companies while Jane oversees Geico and all other insurance units in Berkshire.

During an exchange at the annual meeting about the importance of protecting Berkshire’s culture in the future, Buffett said that the highly decentralized operating model for Berkshire would not work unless the company had the right culture.

Munger replied, “ But we do, and Greg will preserve the culture. ”

Buffett said he has no plans to retire.

Berkshire had long planned to split Buffett’s job into three parts upon his departure: the CEO overseeing capital allocation and Berkshire operations, investment managers to deal with the Berkshire stock portfolio and a separate chairman.

In the past, Buffett had refused to name the next CEO except to say that a Berkshire manager would take over, but Abel was seen as a potential candidate.

Buffett has appointed investment managers who are already helping to manage the portfolio and said his oldest son, Howard Buffett, who already serves on the Berkshire corporation’s board of directors, is likely to become the company’s next chairman.

Edward Jones analyst Jim Shanahan said it is not surprising that Abel is the next CEO of Berkshire given the role that has overseen many of Berkshire’s 90+ subsidiaries since 2018, including BNSF Railways, and all Berkshire facilities. And retail and manufacturing companies.

“We have a great deal of comfort with Abel as CEO and with the overall future leadership of the company. I think he has proven to be a really effective leader,” Shanahan said, noting that Abel handled questions about Berkshire’s efforts to respond to climate change well at the annual meeting.

Abel, 58, came to the meeting with slides and a lot of background information on what Berkshire and BNSF facilities have done to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. It’s a subject he knows so well because the Canadian CEO led the Berkshire Facilities division for more than a decade before becoming Vice Chairman, and he still works in Des Moines, Iowa, where the utility unit is headquartered.

Jim Webber, CEO of Berkshire’s Brooks Running, said Abel routinely visits Seattle to review its strategy and operations. Plus, Abel is available as and when needed, which is what Weber took advantage of last year when the coronavirus pandemic closed all retail stores that sell Brooks shoes.

“I wanted to get his insight into what he was seeing in the economy and in other companies,” Webber said. He encouraged Abel Weber to focus on Brooks’ customers during the pandemic, which helped lead the company to switch to online sales and set sales records because people kept operating even with the restrictions of the Coronavirus.