Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said Meryl Witmer, a general partner at Eagle Capital, will be the first new director since 2009, as the panel prepares for the eventual departure of Chairman Warren Buffett.
The appointment of Witmer expands the board to 13 and will follow her election at the company’s May 4 annual meeting, Debbie Bosanek, an assistant to Buffett, wrote in an e-mail. Billionaire Buffett, 82, is chief executive officer and chairman of Berkshire, which is based in Omaha, Nebraska.
Witmer’s appointment is the first since Berkshire added Stephen Burke, then the chief operating officer of Comcast Corp. to the board in 2009. The firm selected Susan Decker, a former Yahoo! Inc. executive, in 2007. Six of the longer-serving directors are at least 80, including Thomas Murphy and Donald Keough.
“The primary job of our directors is to select my successor, either upon my death or disability, or when I begin to lose my marbles,” Buffett said in a shareholder letter published in 2004.
In another letter three years later he said the board “knows exactly who should take over if I should die tonight.”
Witmer will be the third woman on Berkshire’s board, joining Charlotte Guyman and Decker. She graduated from the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce in 1983 with a finance degree. Mutual fund Calvert Investments Inc. criticized Berkshire yesterday for not considering diversity when selecting board members. The Omaha World-Herald, which is owned by Berkshire, reported Witmer’s appointment earlier today.
Buffett has been outspoken in support of advancing women in the workplace. At a 2011 conference, he said that for most of its history the U.S. failed to make use of women’s abilities by restricting career opportunities.
“It’s incredible what happened,” Buffett said Oct. 4, 2011, at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, California. “We wasted half our talent.”
Witmer spoke at the 2012 Sohn Investment Conference, alongside investors including Bill Ackman, Jeff Gundlach and David Einhorn. She’s the only woman listed among the presenters on the website. Witmer didn’t return a message left at her office.
“She has the intellectual and analytical framework that Buffett has,” Jeff Matthews, a Berkshire investor and author of books about Buffett, said by phone. “She looks at the world bottom up.”
Berkshire gained 0.1 percent to $155,411 in New York, a record high.