July 16, 2024

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After Munger’s death, Berkshire succession comes into focus

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(Reuters) — The death of Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRK-B) Charlie Munger heralds the end of an era, leaving Warren Buffett as the conglomerate’s lone investing legend and shining the spotlight on managers who have largely operated in their shadow.

Few companies have been so closely associated with their leaders as Berkshire has with Buffett and Munger, who knew each other for more than six decades, the last 45 years as the Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate’s chairman and vice chairman.

File - Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, left, and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, briefly chat with reporters May 3, 2019, one day before Berkshire Hathaway's annual shareholders meeting in Omaha, Neb. Berkshire Hathaway says Munger, who helped Warren Buffett build an investment powerhouse, has died. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, left, and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger ahead of the company’s 2019 shareholders meeting in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Munger’s death on Tuesday, five weeks shy of his 100th birthday, leaves Berkshire Vice Chairmen Greg Abel and Ajit Jain, who respectively oversee its non-insurance and insurance businesses, as the 93-year-old Buffett’s top advisers and sounding boards.

They became vice chairmen in 2018, started taking a more prominent public role only at the most recent of Berkshire’s annual meetings, and will have bigger boots to fill than at almost any other company.

Managers have said Abel fully embraces Berkshire’s culture, which includes an extreme decentralization that gives business units broad autonomy.

That means big units such as the BNSF railroad and Geico car insurer, each with tens of thousands of employees, and small units such as Borsheims jewelry, with about 142 employees, can run without interference from Berkshire headquarters, which employs only about 26 people.

But Abel and Jain have different styles from Buffett and Munger.

At the 2021 annual meeting, Jain was asked how he and Abel interact with each other.

“There is no question that the relationship Warren has with Charlie is unique, and it’s not going to be duplicated,” Jain said. “We don’t interact with each other as often as Warren and Charlie do. But every quarter, we will talk to each other about our respective businesses.”

Abel said he…

2023-11-29 01:04:53

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