By Arun Kumar
As Warren Buffett revealed that someone from the Berkshire Hathaway itself would succeed him as the company’s CEO, media speculated on two likely successors – India-born Ajit Jain and Greg Abel.
“Both the board and I believe we now have the right person to succeed me as CEO, a successor ready to assume the job the day after I die or step down,” Buffett said in this year’s annual letter to shareholders.
But he did not reveal who that person would be beyond saying that he would be in house. But his partner Charles Munger dropped enough hints in his own letter Saturday.
Jain was educated in India as well as at Harvard Business School. Buffet hired him in 1986 to build a reinsurance business.
Buffett, the Wall Street Journal recalled, once wrote to shareholders that if Munger and his deputy Ajit Jain were ever on a sinking boat and only one of them could be saved, “Swim to Ajit”.
Now Munger, Berkshire’s vice chairman, has hinted that Jain, the 63-year-old head of the conglomerate’s reinsurance business, is part of what appears to be a two-man race to succeed Buffett.
He also suggested that Greg Abel, who runs Berkshire’s energy business, would be another worthy successor.
“Ajit Jain and Greg Abel are proven performers who would probably be under-described as ‘world-class’,” Munger wrote, adding that in some ways, “each is a better business executive than Buffett”.
Both men appear to fit Buffett’s description of the right Berkshire CEO as a “rational, calm and decisive individual who has a broad understanding of business and good insights into human behaviour. It’s important as well that he knows his limits,” the Journal said.
Time also noted that Jain got most mentions in Buffett’s annual letter. “(Jain’s) mind, moreover, is an idea factory,” Buffett writes in the letter.
But at 63, Jain may be a little too old for the job, if Buffett sticks to his prescribed age range, it said.