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Warren Buffett's Succession Plan

Buffett appoints a candidate to fill his shoes someday. Plus, the current status of angel investing and more of the latest entrepreneurial news.
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Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:

Next in line for Buffett's billions. Meet Todd Anthony Combs. Yesterday, he was a managing partner at the Connecticut-based hedge fund Castle Point Capital Management. Today, he's in charge of a big chunk of Warren Buffett's money, and according to Fortune, someday, he may be in charge of all of it. Buffett, now 80, told shareholders in 2007 that if anything should happen to him, at least three candidates would be ready and waiting to take over as CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. Three years later, Combs is the only candidate Buffett's hired. In a press release, Buffett says, "For three years [Berkshire's vice chairman] Charlie Munger and I have been looking for someone of Todd's caliber to handle a significant portion of Berkshire's investment portfolio. We are delighted that Todd is joining us."

Angel investors do more deals for less money. The latest Angel Market Analysis study by the University of New Hampshire's Center for Venture Research was released today and, not surprisingly, the picture it paints isn't very rosy. According to the study, the first half of 2010 saw angel investors committing less money in more deals, with seed and start-up stage investing declining to its lowest level in several years. Total investments for the first two quarters of 2010 were $8.5 billion, a 6.5 percent decrease compared to the same period last year. Likewise, while a total of 25,200 ventures received angel funding so far this year, a three percent increase from last year, the overall deal size declined nine percent compared to last year's numbers. As Jeffrey Sohl, the Center's director explains, "Historically angels have been the major source of seed and start-up capital for entrepreneurs, and this declining interest in seed and start-up capital represents a significant change in the angel market."

The two-headed business. Until recently, non-profits and for-profits seemed as separate as church and state. But recognizing the need to find capital in order to expand, many "dual-mission" companies have started to marry traditional ideas about social enterprise with a for-profit business model. While many companies have found success in these types of ventures, especially those that offer microfinancing opportunities, The New York Times reports that the hybrids sometimes struggle to maintain an organizational balance. "Like Dr. Dolittle's pushmi-pullyu, the animal that had trouble moving because its two heads could not agree on a single direction, the hybrid model for nonprofits is proving problematic," the article notes. "On occasion, the need to generate returns for investors overwhelms the social mission. In other cases, the business falters altogether and cannot support the nonprofit."

Getting canned on national television. It's especially embarrassing when you're a company chairman attempting to do a more menial job. That's exactly what happened when Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts went on the CBS show Undercover Boss, taking up gigs working on Wrigley Field's grounds crew, as a vendor, and emptying trash outside the stadium. He lasted a mere two days, the Chicago Tribune reports. What more could you learn from the show that takes executives out of their corner offices and disguises them in low-level positions in their own companies? Check out our slideshow on Undercover Boss.

Is Four Loko too loco? College kids looking for a cheap and quick buzz have found a winner in Four Loko, a 23.5-ounce caffeinated malt liquor that retails for $2.50 and contains 12 percent alcohol. But several states are considering banning the drink following incidents of near-fatal intoxication at college campuses and the Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the drink's safety, The Associated Press reports. Chicago-based Phusion Projects, the maker of the drink, "said in a statement that people have consumed caffeine and alcohol together safely for years," according to the AP. Somehow this seems a little different than ending a nice dinner party with a cup coffee.

Automating life-saving That's the plan for one Arizona entrepreneur, Tony Mulligan, who designed a remote-controlled buoy named Emily to help rescue swimmers in distress. Emily -- an acronym for Emergency Lifesaving Lanyard -- can race through rippling waters at 24 miles per hour and rescue swimmers twelve times as fast as human lifeguards, according to CNN. Mulligan got the idea after creating a small robotic boat for his last company to help the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration monitor marine mammals. Months later he sold the company and funneled $250,000 into his new venture, Hydronalix, Emily's manufacturer. With help from outside investments, Emily will be available next year at $3,500 a pop. Human lifeguards have no fear, though: Emily can't save unconscious swimmers, so she won't put anyone out of work just yet.

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Last updated: Oct 26, 2010




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