Warren Buffett may have the Midas touch, but Berkshire Hathaway may continue to mint gold for investors even when he is gone.
Investment research firm Morningstar released a note on Sept. 2 that eased a widespread fear that without the now 86-year-old Oracle of Omaha and his partner, 92-year-old Charlie Munger, Berkshire Hathaway would collapse.
“The key to Berkshire’s success over the years has been Buffett’s ability to not only find fruitful ways to put the firm’s excess capital to work but in paying close attention to culture and fit when acquiring companies,” wrote Greggory Warren, senior equity analyst at Morningstar. “Berkshire’s culture of management autonomy and entrepreneurship has to a large degree become institutionalized.”
Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, Buffett’s investment managers, are also highly independent when it comes to stock picking. Each manage portfolios of approaching $10 billion each of Berkshire’s money. Weschler noted in a recent interview with Institutional Investor that he rarely discusses specific ideas with Combs or Buffett, since the Oracle believes committees tend to produce mediocre returns.
What’s more, while Buffett hasn’t made it public who will be the next CEO of Berkshire, he says the choice has been made and the board of the company is happy. The most likely candidates are Berkshire’s insurance executive Ajit Jain or Greg Abel, who runs Berkshire’s utility division. Though that doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing for Berkshire once Buffett hands off the company to the next CEO.
“We also recognize it is going to be difficult for the firm to replace some of the advantages that have come with having an investor of Buffett’s caliber, which have only been enhanced by having someone of Munger’s caliber at his side all of these years, once the two men are no longer running the business,” Warren wrote.
Shares of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A) have risen 14.6% in 2016, beating the S&P 500’s rally of 6.8% during the same period. That comes after an unusually rough year for the company in 2015, when the stock slid 12% while the larger S&P 500 remained mostly flat.