Nothing can last forever, including Warren Buffett’s reign as the king of investing.
At the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting this past weekend, Buffett said four executives had increasingly taken over the day-to-day running of the company, setting each of them up to succeed Buffett when the time comes. Here’s who they are.
Abel is chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Energy and vice chairman of non-insurance operations, having been promoted in January alongside Ajit Jain. He grew up in Edmonton, Alberta before moving to the U.S. after college. Of the four, Abel may be the most similar to Buffett in temperament and outlook. He reportedly “has Buffett’s ear,” and has earned the CEO’s praise for his great, innovative ideas. He also shares the executive’s values, placing a premium on integrity.
Jain was raised in the Indian state of Orissa and first came to the U.S. to study at Harvard Business School. He was promoted to vice chairman of insurance operations in January alongside Abel. Where Abel matches Buffett’s values and temperament, Jain is praised for his ability to take calculated risk and earn money for the business. Buffett has said that Jain made more money for Berkshire than he himself had, and at one point told shareholders that if another person like Jain came along, they should trade him for Buffett.
Combs is one of two investment managers at Berkshire often mentioned as potential successors to Buffett. A former hedge fund manager, Combs arranged Berkshire’s largest acquisition. In 2016, he was invited to join the board of JP Morgan Chase & Co. after impressing Jamie Dimon. He’s credited with working behind the scenes to spearhead a health care joint venture between Buffett, Dimon, and Jeff Bezos and has been praised for his “indifference” to attention—a trait one Berkshire investor said one would want to see in Buffett’s successor.
Another Berkshire investment manager in the running is Ted Weschler. Combs and Weschler have had nearly identical performance since they each joined the company in 2010 and 2011, respectively. They have both out-performed the S&P 500 in the course of their tenure at Berkshire, which is better than Buffett himself has done. Still, Weschler is most often mentioned as an also-ran to Combs’s rising star.