Berkshire Reduces Clarity on Succession Candidates

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. eliminated language from its annual filing to securities regulators specifying how many candidates the board has to eventually replace 83-year-old Chief Executive Officer Warren Buffett.

“Berkshire’s board of directors has identified certain current Berkshire subsidiary managers who, in their judgment, are capable of succeeding Mr. Buffett,” the Omaha, Nebraska-based company said today in the filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Last year, the document said the board had identified “three current Berkshire subsidiary managers” for the post. Today’s report repeated that directors have agreed on a single candidate to assume the job if one was needed currently. None of the possible successors were identified by name.

Investors have speculated about who might replace Buffett at the top of the firm that he and Vice Chairman Charles Munger, 90, built into a business valued at more than $280 billion through takeovers and stock picks. The CEO, who’s also chairman, head of investments and Berkshire’s largest shareholder, has said his roles will be divided once he’s no longer leading the company.

Buffett told shareholders in a February 2012 letter that the board had selected a candidate to succeed him as CEO and was “enthusiastic” about the pick. The company also had two backups, he wrote that year, without identifying any of the individuals.

‘All Stars’

Buffett relies on the CEOs of Berkshire’s more than 80 operating units to handle day-to-day decisions, leaving him time to pursue takeovers and invest in stocks and bonds. The billionaire frequently praises the work of the company’s managers, whom he calls “all-stars.”

Comments in Buffett’s annual letters and other statements led Berkshire investor Jeff Matthews to write that Ajit Jain, the company’s reinsurance chief, is the most probable candidate to be next CEO. Matthews named Jain, 62, in his book, “Warren Buffett’s Successor: Who It Is and Why It Matters.”

Other possible picks include Greg Abel, 51, who leads Berkshire’s utility business MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., and Matthew Rose, 54, executive chairman of BNSF Railway, Matthews wrote.

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