May 3 (Reuters) - Warren Buffett ended years of speculation about succession at Berkshire Hathaway Inc by saying Greg Abel, who oversees its non-insurance businesses, would become chief executive officer if he were no longer in charge.
“The directors are in agreement that if something were to happen to me tonight, it would be Greg who’d take over tomorrow morning,” Buffett told CNBC, the station said on Monday. Buffett, 90, has never publicly signaled any plan to step down.
Here are some quotes from analysts and shareholders:
JIM SHANAHAN, SENIOR ANALYST, EDWARD JONES & CO, ST LOUIS (HAS “BUY” RATING ON BERKSHIRE)
“I suspect Buffett disclosed this reluctanctly,” after Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger said Abel would keep Berkshire’s culture. “I do believe had everything else held constant, this would not have been disclosed.”
“Abel’s coronation is not exactly a surprise, and most analysts had him on their shortlist.”
“I have a great deal of comfort [in Abel]. Abel has been a very effective leader at Berkshire Hathaway Energy.”
“There may be tonal change at the meeting, with less of the wit and wisdom from Buffett and Munger.”
“He may be a more traditional CEO focused on day-to-day blocking-and-tackling. Berkshire has always been decentralized, and Abel may be more of a traditional CEO in having portfolio companies set targets, and holding them accountable to achieve those targets.
JAMES ARMSTRONG, PRESIDENT, HENRY H. ARMSTRONG ASSOCIATES, PITTSBURGH (HAS INVESTED IN BERKSHIRE SINCE 1985)
“It’s not a surprise. Greg is the right choice to run the overall company. Greg has a lot of experience dealing with regulators and making acquisitions, and a track record of managing many people. The board has had a lot of time to watch him in action.”
Greg Abel and Ajit Jain: “Both men have very different types of expertise. When someone displays great brilliance in one field, it makes sense for Ajit to stay focused on insurance.”
On Abel being younger than Jain: “Buffett has always said it’s important for a CEO to have a long run.”
STEVE HABERSTROH, PARTNER AT CASTLEKEEP INVESTMENT ADVISORS, AN RIA BASED IN WESTPORT, CT THAT OWNS BERKSHIRE SHARES
“It has been talked about for many years, and it has been a concern for some shareholders, or a concern for some folks who aren’t yet willing to buy Berkshire, because they believe that it will sell off once Warren Buffett steps down or passes away.”
“Buffett has said in the past that his job as CEO of Berkshire is one of an allocator - he needs to be a really good allocator of capital - and I think Greg has proven himself to be able to allocate resources and capital towards long-term profits in the energy division. And it’s not just about allocating to the hot stock of the day, it’s about allocating capital for the long haul, and so his mindset fits perfectly in that piece of Berkshire.”
“The other job that Buffett has, and therefore his successor will have, is to keep the culture, and that’s where this entire conversation comes from. And when you see Greg speak and carry himself, it feels – even though I believe he’s Canadian – it feels very middle-of-America. Simple, understated, very knowledgeable, but humble at the same time, and also serious.”
“Interesting that the stock is up about 2% today ... why is the stock up more than the market? Well, I think investors are pleased.”
“That takes away some investors’ concerns about, well, I want to buy more Berkshire, or I want to buy Berkshire for the first time, but what happens when Buffett is no longer here? Well, now you’ve got a glimpse as to what might happen, and you can assess as a shareholder, is that the type of person I want to be the steward of my capital?”
ROBERT MILES, A SHAREHOLDER WHO TEACHES A COURSE ON BUFFETT AND BERKSHIRE FOR THE EXECUTIVE MBA PROGRAM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA, OMAHA
“I think Greg will be terrific. I think 80% of the businesses, if not more, are already reporting to him, so this seems logical.”
“He has built the energy business from scratch to 10% of the revenue, and they’ll be more of an energy company in the future, so he knows how to do acquisitions, he knows how to build a business. He also has been a fast study in understanding the assorted businesses from railroads to retailing.”
“I have heard nothing but glowing praises of Greg from the other CEOs (within Berkshire). It’s important to put someone in there who is well liked. I think they see Greg as one of them.”
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and John McCrank in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky