Berkshire Hathaway announced this week that it had appointed Gregory Abel and Ajit Jain to the company’s board of directors and made them both vice chairmen, which likely means that one of them will eventually succeed Warren Buffett as Berkshire’s chief executive officer.
Abel has been tapped as the company’s vice chairman – non-insurance business operations and Jain is now vice chairman – insurance operations, according to a company statement. Abel joined Berkshire Hathaway Energy Company in 1992 and currently serves as its chairman and CEO; while Jain joined Berkshire Hathaway Insurance Group in 1986 and currently serves as Executive Vice President of National Indemnity Company, leading the company’s reinsurance program.
“It’s part of a movement toward succession over time and they are the two key figures at Berkshire,” Buffett said in an interview with CNBC. “This would have made sense five years ago.”
Buffett added that both Abel and Jain have “Berkshire in their blood” and “know their operations like the back of their hand.”
Asked about the timing of the move, noting that some people have been calling on him to announce a succession plan for a few years now, Buffett said that it “probably should have been done a few years ago, but everything’s been working fine.”
“It’s a transition period that may last a long time or if something happened to me it could happen very soon,” Buffet said. “There’s nothing magic about the timing.”
But Buffett noted that by promoting Abel and Jain to vice chairmen, it allows the to get “into contact with the operations they haven’t been in contact with before.” He also clarified that there will still be only one CEO when he leaves the company – rather than having Abel and Jain share responsibilities – but that there would be “no horse race” between the two vice chairmen to succeed him.
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