Warren Buffett refuses to identify chosen successor

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Feb 27, 2012

David Brancaccio: When Warren Buffett talks, people listen. But the 81-year-old billionnaire isn’t really talking about who will eventually replace him at the top of his financial services conglomerate.

Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall-Genzer now on a strange non-announcement.

Nancy Marshall-Genzer: You may be wondering why Buffett doesn’t just say who’ll replace him eventually. Well, analysts say that would cause uncertainty at Berkshire Hathaway. Big companies like to have a couple of people in the running.

Len Blum is managing partner at the New York investment bank Westwood Capital. He says there are a few other reasons to leave the successor anonymous.

Len Blum: It also is going to increase the public scrutiny of that successor, and if the successor leaves or makes a mistake, that’s some risk.

Blum says Berkshire Hathaway shouldn’t make a big deal of the succession issue — and should even try to ignore it. Buffett couldn’t ignore it this morning. He was on CNBC, and of course was asked why he wouldn’t say who’ll replace him. He would only say that the company knows exactly what it’ll do when he can no longer run it.

Warren Buffett: It could be tonight, it could be five years from now. The board of directors knows exactly who the person is the next morning.

And Buffett pointed out that big companies like Coke and Amazon haven’t announced who their next CEO is. But the thing about Berkshire Hathaway is Warren Buffett embodies the company, and he’s headed it for almost 50 years.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall-Genzer for Marketplace.

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