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Warren Buffett nominates Greg Abel as successor at Berkshire Hathaway

It’s almost official: Warren Buffett has all but anointed (verbally) one of his two senior managers, Greg Abel, as his successor at the top of Berkshire Hathaway, likely Vice Chair (to replace the late Charlie Munger in that role).

Abel, who oversees all of the non-insurance businesses Berkshire owns, has been mentioned before as the putative successor—once several years ago when the late Charlie Munger made an inadvertent reference to Abel in that role.

(Buffett oversees the huge share portfolio valued at more than $US340 billion and what happens to the company’s huge float (US167 billion at the end of 2023 and mostly invested in US treasuries).

Buffett hardened up the idea of Abel following him in comments made last year about his estate and who would run the company and who would oversee its gradual liquidation.

Buffett’s reference became clearer in Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report and his latest shareholder letter, issued at the weekend.

Buffett revealed that Abel would be handling questions with Buffett at the company’s May 4 annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.

Buffett, Abel, and insurance boss Ajit Jain will be handling questions in the morning session as usual, but in the afternoon session, Abel will join Buffett as Charlier Munger used to do at shareholder meetings.

In his shareholder letter, there were several references to Abel—the most obvious was this: “Greg Abel, who runs all non-insurance operations for Berkshire—and in all respects is ready to be CEO of Berkshire tomorrow—was born and raised in Canada (he still plays hockey). In the 1990s, however, Greg lived for six years in Omaha just a few blocks away from me. During that period, I never met him.”

And earlier, he revealed for the first time the key role Abel played in Berkshire’s most interesting investment move for years—the plunge into the share registers of Japan’s five big trading houses—Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Itochu, Sumitomo, and Marubeni. Berkshire now holds around 9% in each of them, and Buffett says the shares will never be sold.

“Additionally, Berkshire continues to hold its passive and long-term interest in five very large Japanese companies, each of which operates in a highly-diversified manner somewhat similar to the way Berkshire itself is run. We increased our holdings in all five last year after Greg Abel and I made a trip to Tokyo to talk with their managements.”

The only other executive who is regularly mentioned by Buffett is Ajit Jain (who also lived in Omaha, where Buffett and Berkshire reside), the insurance boss responsible for the best-performing part of the company in 2023.