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Warren Buffett’s successor seems to be coming from the shadows


More than a decade before Berkshire Hathaway scientists found the answer to their perplexing question – who could replace Warren Buffett – the company’s former gardener Greg Abel.

David Sokol, former head of Berkshire’s largest electronics business, told Buffett in 2007 that he wanted to hand over his job to Abel, saying it was time for the “right hand manager” to take the lead.

Abel worked closely with Sokol, discussing some of the most difficult issues, including the purchase of gas lines following the Enron collapse that took place over the weekend. Buffett, at first, refused, but in the end he was convinced.

“There’s a reason in 2008 I handed over the CEO role to Greg,” Sokol said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and I honestly think Greg was better than me.”

Abel saw the potential in a small real estate business that came up with something bigger; some bosses had just seen the flaws in themselves. The business – HomeServices – is now one of Berkshire’s most valuable metals, as well as one of the largest real estate agents in the US.

Sokol also recalled the speed at which Abel moved to reduce costs and improve new operations Northern Electric in the UK in the 1990s. Abel crossed the Atlantic to help manage the company.

“After two meetings we sat down and Greg wrote a paper that was sorted out,” he said.

Sokol himself saw him as Buffett’s successor, but resigned from the company in 2011 following rumors of a stockbroker in Lubrizol, a company that Berkshire later acquired. U.S. security officials investigated the incident but did not follow through.

The second question of existence

Last week Abel’s anointing The 90-year-old Buffett writer answered a question that has always existed in Berkshire Hathaway. But it did not create another dilemma, which is more controversial: does Berkshire have any reason to live without Buffett and his former secretary Charlie Munger, 97, above?

Thrown in the image of Buffett, the company is unlike any other American working class. It has many insurance businesses such as Geico, the Burlington North railway, furniture stores, car dealerships and electronics. But the essentials are also important for state-owned enterprises – for companies such as Apple and Bank of America – that make Berkshire more similar to a mutual fund than a regular business.

Abel, a 58-year-old Canadian, could be a successful businessman but it is not known if he is also in the smart business, some businesses have just kept quiet.

In the meantime, women have a few minutes to get to know the man. Abel was embarrassed by the media – he declined to comment on the matter – and his appearance before reaching the financial front.

In 2020, in the midst of the plague, he joined Buffett in an empty space to answer questions for his constituents. But his the answers were few, especially of the businesses he oversees, and left his bosses to offer smart advice which, for many investors, is the main focus of the Berkshire conference. It was only in that month that the shareholders were given more money.

The initial response has been interesting, with Abel impressed with the auditors and his knowledge of the electronics business and show how the company is reducing its carbon footprint. His colleagues described him as “highly depraved”, “punished”, and as having “special potential” to learn more, qualities he also observed in Buffett.

Ron Olson, director of the Berkshire board, added that he was a “outspoken speaker” who had adopted the company’s culture from Buffett and Munger over the past 10 years.

“He won’t be Warren in his personality, but he has the trust and loyalty that came through Warren,” Olson said, adding that Abel had a “good job”.

“He grew up in the snow, played hockey, and had a few false teeth to show for it. Such competition is imminent. ”

Awakening powers

Abel found a way to the company through one of his many discoveries. After working as an accountant at PwC in San Francisco, in 1992 he went to work for one of the electronics clients, a small business called CalEnergy.

“Everything I asked him to do he did 125 percent and then I looked at things around to do better,” said Sokol, who was running CalEnergy. “Greg needed a little training. All they want is a chance. ”

Power under Sokol and Abel did the disgusting thing in front of Berkshire bought the company in 2000. Before the age of 40, Abel was promoted to president and chief of electronics, with a 1% stake.

That’s where he found most of his destructive soil. The move has prompted some of Berkshire’s largest stakeholder participants, which has not been missed by shareholders complaining about the $ 145.4bn in revenue raised by the agency.

Net's profit chart, on the business lines ($ bn) showing Berkshire's needs, which Abel led, has shown a growing profit

Abel has played a major role in Berkshire $ 5.1bn purchase of PacifiCorp in 2005, his $ 10.4bn to earn Nevada’s support for NV Energy in 2013 and one of the company’s recent achievements: $ 8bn purchase of the Dominion Energy pipeline business last year.

“Most of the M&A’s are dating and Greg… Can be a lot more fun when they’re dating,” said one of Abel’s former colleagues.

Thomas Russo, Berkshire’s long-term broker-dealer Gardner Russo & Quinn, said it was the ability to spend “more money” that led Abel to choose naturally to replace Buffett.

Whether Abel will be more successful than Buffett by placing a cup in the battle box remains to be seen. The Berkshire playbook, which has been reducing competition wars, has reduced the company’s liquidity at a time when other companies and investors are also investing.

And Abel has not yet shown his willingness to break the mold. Company 2017 failed $ 18bn bid for Oncor Energy, a deal that Abel sewed before it was signed by another colleague, confirmed how “Greg changed the style,” said his employer.

It is unclear how Abel would work with the entire team that Buffett was prepared to take over if he took over, including Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, who helps oversee corporate affairs, and Ajit Jain, vice-second for Berkshire insurance operations. Jain described the relationship between the two as respect, even in contrast to what Buffett and Munger had done over the years.

Consumer surveillance only increases as the pile of money grows and is forced to grow Berkshire’s air volume and competition constraints. The division of the company, in which Abel played a major role, has been he examined in depth. His Nevada power applied business especially in 2018 to address the idea that would have eliminated the state-owned electricity business.

“They are defending their authority in every way,” said Nora Mead Brownell, a former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission commissioner. “I think Warren represents some of the principles that Greg Abels of the world achieves,” he added.

When Abel was appointed by the committee, the company did not open the keys. The committee, in turn, has been planning for more than a decade.

“Warren has a lot of life. I want to emphasize this, “Olson said.” Greg is our father right now. If it’s been 10 years from now, who knows. “


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