In a very unusual statement, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett has revealed that Berkshire’s board of directors would almost certainly support Ajit Jain as the company’s next CEO if he wanted the position. However, Mr. Jain is apparently not interested in the job:
“He loves what he does, he’s not looking to take my job,” Buffett said yesterday at a news conference in Bangalore. “If he was, the board of directors would probably put him in there in a minute.”
Mr. Buffett has consistently refused to publicly identify the list of four candidates to succeed him as CEO partly due to the uncertain date of the transition. Mr. Buffett has no plans to retire and appears to be in very good health based on his travel schedule and public appearances. As far as we know, today’s statement was the first time that Mr. Buffett has ever publicly commented on the succession issue this explicitly or named a candidate who would have the job if he wanted it.
We have previously discussed the succession issue at Berkshire and succession planning is one of the main areas of focus in Berkshire Hathaway: In Search of the “Buffett Premium”, our recently published comprehensive report on Berkshire.
Like many Berkshire analysts, we have considered David Sokol to be the front runner based on numerous factors. Mr. Sokol is most likely still the front runner (among candidates who appear to want the job), but his status is somewhat diminished by the fact that Mr. Jain now appears to be the heir apparent should he change his mind regarding taking on the CEO position at some point in the future. Of course, the entire list of candidates could very well change if Mr. Buffett continues to run Berkshire over the next decade since he has previously indicated that the next CEO of Berkshire should ideally have a long tenure.
For more information regarding Mr. Jain, including his own views regarding Berkshire’s succession plans, please see our article published earlier today regarding his recent interview with the Times of India.
Disclosure: Long Berkshire Hathaway.