It's the mother of all casting calls. In yesterday's letter to shareholders, Warren Buffett wrote that Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A ) (NYSE: BRK-B ) will be searching for someone to take the reins of the most prolific investing company in the world.
"I intend to hire a younger man or woman with the potential to manage a very large portfolio, who we hope will succeed me as Berkshire's chief investment officer when the need for someone to do that arises," he writes.
Do you think that you can cut it as the next Buffett? You're better off using a pressure cooker as a Jacuzzi. Buffett has been able to grow his company's book value per share in every single year but one since 1965. That was in 2001, when Berkshire Hathaway's book value took a modest 6.2% hit.
Buffett insists that he's not going anywhere. At 76, he jokes that his diet of Cherry Cokes and hamburgers has kept him healthy. The actuary tables that his insurance companies know all too well tell a different story.
Success in succession
Buffett can beat the market with aplomb, but he can't beat mortality. The CEO succession plan is already in place. He has identified three young -- and unnamed -- candidates to run the company when he moves on.
Now he needs a CIO who will make the next 42 years as lucrative as the last 42 years.
"Independent thinking, emotional stability, and a keen understanding of both human and institutional behavior are vital to long-term investment success," Buffett writes. "I've seen a lot of very smart people who have lacked these virtues."
Will someone please make sure that Tom Gardner isn't booking a flight to Omaha?
In fact, the person Buffett wants may already be sitting in the boardroom. He gushes over the recent appointment of Susan Decker to the Berkshire Hathaway board. As acting CFO at Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) , Decker was recently promoted to head up the online bellwether's Advertiser and Publisher Group. By most accounts, she is being groomed to be Yahoo!'s next CEO.
Decker is the hot name in a cool company. She is 32 years younger than Buffett. And before joining Yahoo! in 2000, she served as the global director of equity research at Donaldson, Lufkin, & Jenrette. That $300 million subsidiary is a far cry from the $61.5 billion equity portfolio that Berkshire Hathaway manages, but Decker's star has only brightened over the years.
Hold me to this: Yahoo! CEO, Berkshire Hathaway CEO, or Berkshire Hathaway CIO are the only three places that I see Decker going in the next decade or so.
Decking a Decker
You've still got time to prove to Buffett that you are the one. Brush up on your security analysis. Take the time to admire everything that Buffett has done. Do you even know the one major investment that is currently showing a paper loss in the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio? I'll spot you this one -- it's Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) -- but to be a superior investor you're going to have to learn to do your own homework.
You might also want to take a creative writing course or two. It would be a shame to see Buffett's heir apparent lack the knack of putting out market prose in every annual shareholder letter.
This year's 23-page update is another classic. Beyond the CIO job offer to end all offers, Buffett laments outlandish CEO compensation, insane money manager fees, and the demise of stamp-based reward clubs.
He confesses to using a credit card, though only sparingly. He encourages shareholders to spend heavily at May's annual meeting, including suggestions to snap up a Clayton home or a Forest River pontoon boat.
Does that sound like your kind of gig? If you think that you'll be beat out by Peter Lynch or Legg Mason's (NYSE: LM ) Bill Miller, think again. Buffett knows that the job will pay peanuts compared to the lucrative offers that will roll in.
The CIO post will be about more than money. It will be about loyalty. This doesn't mean that using crazy glue to affix yourself to the Berkshire Hathaway stage or showing up to May's annual meeting dressed as the GEICO gecko are good ideas. If you do, though, send me a picture.
The reward is in the exercise
I'm not Berkshire Hathaway material. I'm the one that recommended XM Satellite Radio and IMAX to Rule Breakers subscribers at much higher prices two years ago.
What about you? Are you Berkshire Hathaway material? Even if you're not really up to snuff to be the next CIO, it doesn't hurt to start thinking like Buffett. A good place to start would be looking back at the decades of letters that Buffett has written.
It's a lot to read, but you know what to do if you get thirsty or hungry along the way. I hear that Cherry Cokes and hamburgers do a body good.
Legg Mason and Berkshire Hathaway are Inside Value stock picks. IMAX is a current Rule Breakers recommendation, while XM is a former pick. Yahoo! has been singled out to Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter subscribers.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz isn't in the market for a pontoon boat and doesn't own a gecko costume. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.