Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is known for his well-thought-out approach to picking his portfolio. After all, it's only now that he has bought into online retail giant Amazon, after remaining uninterested in Silicon Valley sizzlers for decades. Buffett has shown the same systematic approach to mentoring his team. That is why market observers have been eager to know who the 88-year-old market wizard would pick to succeed him.
Buffett, known as the 'Oracle of Omaha', has now given a hint about his successor by naming Gregory Abel, 57, and Ajit Jain, 67, as a wonderful team. He said at the company's annual general meeting that the two, who were elevated to the company's board last year, would soon join him and long-time business partner Charlie Munger, 95, on the stage to answer shareholders' questions.
"You could not have two better-operating managers than Greg and Ajit. It's just fantastic what they've accomplished," Buffett said.
Jain, residing in New York City, joined the company in 1986 and has been heading its insurance division. Abel has been heading the company's energy division and non-insurance activities.
Jain, an IIT-Kharagpur graduate who is also a Harvard MBA, was born in the Indian state of Orissa. The one-time executive of IBM and McKinsey & Co has been credited with Berkshire Hathaway's excellent performance in the insurance business.
Jain is known for his philanthropic activities with his wife including the running of Seattle-based not-for-profit Jain Foundation that supports patients with congenital disorders.
Buffett has been cryptic to questions about who will succeed him to head the world's largest financial services company by revenue of $211 billion. "One of the reasons we have trouble with these questions is because Berkshire is so very peculiar. We have a different, kind of unbureaucratic way of making decisions," a media report quotes Munger as saying. "But I don't want to be like everybody else because this has worked better. So I think you're going to have to endure us," he said.
Industry circles are watching every word of Buffett for a hint on who would ultimately succeed him. For Berkshire Hathaway that announced a net profit of $21.66 billion, the change of guard will be momentous because the company's market cap is believed to be directly linked to the presence of the founder in the management. Berkshire's share, trading at $327,765, is considered to be 10 to 15 per cent above their real value. Buffett's appreciation of Amazon's Jeff Bezos, after having kept off the company's stake thus far, is also considered a changing approach to investment.
Berkshire Hathaway has holdings in companies such as American Express, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, and is active in sectors like insurance (Geico), rail (BNSF) and energy (PacifiCorp).