Warren Buffett built Berkshire Hathaway into a successful holding company by being a savvy businessman and knowing the right people to promote. At the company's annual shareholders meeting on Saturday, the multibillionaire investor talked about his admiration for Jeff Bezos, as well as leadership during a time of succession at Berkshire.
In a discussion with Berkshire vice chairman Charlie Munger, Buffett gushed about his admiration for Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos, particularly about his ability to grow his e-commerce business while running other projects like The Washington Post and Blue Origin. "At The Washington Post, he's played that hand incredibly," Buffett said at the meeting. "He's been involved in the actual execution, not just bankrolling the operation."
While Buffett offered no insight about who would take over for him as CEO, he did hint that it could happen within the next few years. In 2016, seven Berkshire subsidiaries announced changes in CEOs--and, since then, Buffett has been quietly appointing new people to fill those roles.
Chief executives at reinsurer General Re, chemicals company Lubrizol, and construction equipment company MiTek saw turnover in the past year. When hiring new managers for top positions at Berkshire or at the subsidiary level, the focus is on maintaining the company's culture, board member Ron Olson told The Wall Street Journal. For example, Eric Schnur became the CEO of Lubrizol in January and has worked with the company since he was a student. "I know the product lines, the customers. I know a lot of the challenges," he told The Wall Street Journal. "It's clear to me what we need to do."
Buffett sends CEOs a letter every two years to reiterate the company's values and asks them to recommend their successors, Buffett said in his 2010 shareholder letter. At the 2016 meeting, he said there is no "grand design" behind his leadership planning at the subsidiary level. "At Berkshire, every decision that comes up, we just try to figure out the most logical thing to do at that time," Buffett told the Journal.