Sun, Dec 11, 2011 - Page 11 News List

Buffett tips his corn farmer son as next Berkshire chairman

AFP, NEW YORK

Mega-billionaire Warren Buffett says his son, a corn farmer, would be a good replacement for him as chairman of his US$245 billion investment giant Berkshire Hathaway.

Buffett told CBS television that Howard Buffett, 56, would be a good “guardian of the culture” at Berkshire, the legendary company Warren Buffett founded and leads as chairman and chief executive.

Howard Buffett could become non-executive chairman — presiding over the board of directors, but not the company itself — after his own retirement or death, the octogenarian tycoon said.

“You worry that somebody will be in charge of Berkshire that uses it as their own sandbox in some way; that changes the way that decisions are made in reference to the shareholders,” Warren Buffett said. “The odds of that happening are very, very low. Having Howie there adds just one extra layer of protection.”

The remarks came in excerpts of an interview both father and son gave to the CBS program, 60 Minutes, to be aired today.

The future of Berkshire, which has turned Buffett into one of the world’s wealthiest people with a fortune of an estimated US$50 billion, according to Forbes, has generated much speculation in recent years.

Buffett, though apparently healthy, is 81 and has said numerous times that he is preparing the company for a change of leadership.

He has said the company has several good candidates for chief executive in mind, but has not offered any names.

Earlier this year, Berkshire hired hedge-fund manager Ted Weschler, 50, of Peninsula Capital Advisors to run a portion of Berkshire’s US$372 billion investment portfolio, leading to speculation that he might have a chance for the job.

That choice followed a scandal in March that involved another possible successor, Berkshire senior executive David Sokol, who was forced to resign after a share-buying intrigue.

Buffett’s son said the handover would not likely happen until Warren dies.

“He won’t leave until he’s buried in the ground. I hate to put it that way,” he said.

The younger Buffett farms corn and soybeans in Illinois and currently serves on the board of directors of Berkshire, Coca-Cola and farm equipment maker Lindsay. He also works with the World Food Program to promote sustainable farming techniques.

Howard Buffett told CBS he has no problem with his father’s plans.

“As long as I can keep farming, I’m okay,” he said.

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