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Buffett Says Berkshire Hathaway ‘Well-Equipped’ for Succession

Buffett Says Berkshire Hathaway ‘Well-Equipped’ Succession
Billionaire Warren Buffett, right, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said the company’s management is “well-equipped” for when he and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, left, step down. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

Billionaire Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said the company’s management is “well-equipped” for when he and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger step down.

“We talk with the directors every time we meet,” Buffett, 80, said in Beijing today in an interview recorded with state broadcaster China Central Television. “Majority of our time is spent talking about the succession question because it’s enormously important.”

Buffett, in his fifth decade as head of Berkshire Hathaway, said last year he had four candidates to succeed him as chief investment officer, without identifying the individuals. The Omaha, Nebraska-based company also said Buffett’s roles as the company’s chairman, chief executive officer and chief investment officer will be split among at least three people upon his death or retirement.

Berkshire’s directors are content with the successors that they’ve talked about, Buffett said today.

“We’re very well-equipped for succession,” he said. “Just don’t want it to happen too soon.”

Buffett and Munger traveled to China this week to tour the facilities of automaker BYD Co., in which Berkshire holds a 9.9 percent stake. Bill Gates, who joined them on the trip, and Buffett also were scheduled to meet with wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs today to discuss philanthropy in the world’s fastest-growing major economy.

Berkshire Directors

Berkshire’s directors have a financial interest in making sure a replacement takes Buffett’s place if they see his abilities declining, he told CCTV today.

“We have managers who have done very well into their 80s but we have some other managers who have declined in their abilities in their low 70s,” Buffett said. “I’m not sure I could retire because I never really went to work. I enjoy so much doing what I do.”

A possible candidate to replace Buffett overseeing the company’s holdings is Li Lu, the hedge-fund manager who helped Berkshire invest in Shenzhen, China-based BYD, the the Wall Street Journal reported in July. Munger told the newspaper “it’s a foregone conclusion” that Li probably would become a top investment official at Berkshire.

Li, former president of the Student Congress on Tiananmen Square, graduated in 1993 from Columbia University, where Buffett went to business school. The money manager met Munger after college, and the two exchanged thoughts on investing, according to an essay Li wrote for the China Entrepreneur Magazine in May and posted on the website of his hedge fund, Himalaya Capital.

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