JEREMY HOBSON: Now to the surprising news from one of the nation’s most respected companies. The man who was positioned to succeed the 80 year old investor Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway has resigned. David Sokol quit after reportedly buying 100,000 shares of Lubrizol stock before recommending that Berkshire buy the company, Lubrizol
Diane Swonk is off this week. We’re joined live instead by Meyer Shields — an analyst with Stifel Nicholas. Good morning.
MEYER SHIELDS: Good morning.
HOBSON: So, give us a sense, for those of us who don’t work on Wall Street, why does this high profile resignation at Berkshire Hahaway matter?
SHIELDS: I think at this poitn in time, Warren Buffet is clearly a celebrity CEO. And Berkshire Hathaway is a celebrity company, if such a thing exists. So when you’ve got something that at least carries the appearance of impropriety, at a company which is a household name, then it’s interest. I think it’s something that people want to talk about.
HOBSON: So it’s the issue of Berkshire Hathaway is seen as a very transparent company normally and this sort of changes that a bit?
SHIELDS: Yes, Berkshire Hathaway has developed over the decades a very solid reputation for honesty. And then people look at this story and say, well maybe that doesn’t look right.
HOBSON: What about the the succession issue? I mean, why was everybody expecting this guy to be the successor and what does it matter if he’s not?
SHIELDS: Well, those are two great questions. I think people were expecting David Sokol to be the successor because he was one of very few CEOs within the Berkshire empire that got moved around. He was CEO of an energy company. And when the airline company NetJets got into trouble, he was the person that was sort of put in to repair that. And he’s also made some significant, high-profile recommendations for the investment portfolio. So from the outside, he looked to be the most likely person who was being groomed to take over for Warren Buffett. The reason it matters I think is because we’ve had over the past decade a number of, again, iconic CEOs of huge companies — AIG, GE, CitiGroup — and when that iconic CEO left and was replaced with someone, then the stocks did very poorly and there were a lot fo unfortunate surprises that have sort of been hidden from the public.
HOBSON: And now we’re watching places like Apple with Steve Jobs and Rubert Murdoch over at News Corp. for some possible more succession plans to come out. Meyer Shields of Stifel Nicholas, thanks so much for joining us.
SHIELDS: Thank you.
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