The 1 Person Who Should Replace Warren Buffett

We asked five people who they would like to see step into Warren's shoes after he's gone.

Jun 28, 2014 at 2:00PM


As much as long-term shareholders would like him to, Warren Buffett isn't going to be atop Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A)(NYSE:BRK-B) forever. The topic of Buffett's potential successor is nothing new, but who are these potential heirs and what could they mean for Berkshire Hathaway shareholders who aim to hold their position for decades to come.

To get a better idea of this talent pool, we asked five Berkshire-loving Fools who they would like to see step into Warren's shoes after he's gone.

Matt Koppenheffer: Don't take what I'm about to say the wrong way, but I think Matt Rose should run Berkshire because he's less critical to the success of the subsidiary he currently oversees (BNSF).


To be sure, BNSF, does not run itself. The success the railroad has seen, and the reason why Buffett was so high on it that he decided to buy the whole darn thing, has a lot to do with the smart management of Matt Rose. And Rose's managerial skill is a big part of the reason why I'd be happy seeing him run all of Berkshire.

But BNSF is a business that has an extremely strong moat -- via its huge rail network -- and has reinvestment requirements that speak for much of the capital that the business generates. This means that exceptional management can help, but isn't as critical as it is to other Berkshire businesses. For comparison, consider what happens if Ajit Jain -- another CEO front-runner -- is tapped. The conversation would then have to be how Ajit would be able to perform the duties of both the overall Berkshire CEO and the manager of the catastrophe and other large-risk insurance operations, because Ajit is a key piece of the puzzle in the latter businesses.

As a bonus notch for Rose: He runs an industrial-type business for Berkshire and those are increasingly the types of businesses that Buffett is looking at for his "elephant" acquisitions.

Patrick Morris: Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway have a cadre of CEOs who would make for great replacements of Buffett. But if I had to pick one, I'd chose a dark horse in Brad Kinstler, who sits atop Buffett's dream business of See's Candy.


When he was named CEO of See's in 2005, it came after his previous position atop Cypress Insurance and Fechheimer's. And that's just the reason I'd select him: the wide range of leadership experience he's had, from his time running a candy, apparel, and insurance businesses.

Buffett almost never moves managers across industries, and Kinstler is a rare exception. Knowing Berkshire Hathaway is now a conglomerate made up of operating businesses, not just investments and insurance, his experiences will help him steer the ship.

After he was moved to Fechheimer's Buffett said, "Brad is hitting home runs in his new job, just as he always did at Cypress." And when discussing the record earnings See's had in 2011, he told us to, "credit Brad Kinstler for taking the company to new heights since he became CEO in 2006."

"Home runs" and "new heights" at a collection of business after first starting in insurance? Sounds like a perfect fit to be the next CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

Jessica Alling: It's been said by The Fool before, Warren Buffett invests like a girl. Keeping that in mind, my choice for Buffett's replacement is someone that the Oracle already has extreme confidence in and who has benefited from his close attention over the past few years: Tracy Britt Cool.

As chairman to some of Berkshire Hathaway's subsidiaries, Cool has helped oversee many of Berkshire's smaller investments, allowing the Oracle to see to bigger issues, but her importance to Buffett's operations continues to increase. Cool has been noted for her level-head, which helps her manage the various fires that are bound the spring up now and then in such a sprawling company.

One distinct advantage comes straight from a Buffett observation: "She thinks like I would." So while Cool may think like a man, she invests like a woman and could serve as a great replacement for Buffett, when his time to move on comes.

Kingkarn Amjaroen: The most likely successor of Warren Buffett is Ajit Jain. Though those others are valid candidates, I think Warren Buffett will prefer someone with hands-on management experience, deep insurance business know-how and a successful investment record. 

Ajit Jain runs Berkshire Hathway's reinsurance division and can look back on decades of experience in the insurance business. Ajit Jain also seems to be held in high regard within Berkshire Hathaway and has now been working for Warren Buffett's conglomerate for almost 30 years. 

Insurance operations are at the core of Buffett's empire. Picking a seasoned insurance executive with a deep understanding of value investing and Berkshire Hathaway's corporate culture is the right move for Buffett to ensure a smooth transition.


Photo: World Economic Forum

Brendan Mathews: I'd like to see Bill Gates takeover for Warren Buffett as the next CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

Not only is Gates extremely intelligent, widely admired and only 58 years-old, but he also has a deep respect for Warren Buffett's legacy and values of Berkshire Hathaway. Gates and Buffett have been close friends since 1991, and Gates has been on the board of Berkshire Hathaway since 2004.

And, Gates has more at stake than honoring his friend's legacy -- nearly half of his foundation's assets are invested in Berkshire Hathaway shares. I don't know if Gates is interested in the job, but he's the person that I'd pick to run the show after Warren. 

Warren Buffett isn't worried about his successor. But this scares him.
At the recent Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, Warren Buffett admitted this emerging technology is threatening his biggest cash-cow. While Buffett shakes in his billionaire-boots, only a few investors are embracing this new market which experts say will be worth over $2 trillion. Find out how you can cash in on this technology before the crowd catches on, by jumping onto one company that could get you the biggest piece of the action. Click here to access a FREE investor alert on the company we're calling the "brains behind" the technology.

Jessica Alling and Kingkarn Amjaroen have no position in any stocks mentioned. Brendan MathewsMatt Koppenheffer, & Patrick Morris own shares of Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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