Berkshire Hathaway 1999 Annual Meeting Audience Question # 25

Is Warren grooming a younger man or woman to be his heir-apparent?

Warren Buffett:

Zone 12?

Audience Member:

Hello. My name is Elias Kanner. And I am from New York City.

Mr. Buffett, thank you for this entire weekend. I met you at the ballgame on Saturday and at Gorat’s yesterday. It was a great honor for me each time.

Warren Buffett:

Thank you.

Audience Member:

My question is this: Mr. Buffett, will you groom a younger man or woman as your heir apparent? If so, when might you do this?

When I say younger, I mean a person 15 to 20 years younger than yourself. Of course, I’m not complaining. You’re the best in the world.

Warren Buffett:

Well, 15 or 20 years younger is a lot easier to do than it used to be.

A large percentage of the world’s population is now eligible.

The… we have, today, the people to take over Berkshire. There’s no problem about that at all. They have been named in letters that the directors have. And they are in place.

Exactly who will be the two people will of course… or it could be one person… will depend on when Charlie and I are out of the picture.

I mean, if we’d written the letter 10 years ago, it might have been different than today. It might be different 15 years from now.

So, our death or incapacity, the timing of it, will determine exactly who will be the current person in that letter. But we have those people in place. They don’t need to be groomed from this point forward.

They exist. They’re ready. They’d be ready to run Berkshire tomorrow morning.

And I think you’d be quite pleased with the job they did. And that’s why I don’t worry about having… I’ve got 99 3/4 percent of my net worth in Berkshire. And, you know, I don’t want any of it sold. If I knew I was going to die next week, I would not want it sold in the coming week. And I don’t want it sold after I die.

I feel comfortable with the businesses and the managers and the successor top management that we have at Berkshire. But I just don’t want them to take over too early.

Charlie?

Charlie Munger:

Yeah. I actually think that the prospects for continuity of corporate culture, to the extent we have one at Berkshire, is higher than prospects for continuity of corporate culture at most other large public companies.

I don’t see Berkshire changing its way of operating, even if Warren were to expire tonight. And I think that the capital, the fresh cash, would be allocated less well. But as I’ve said at past shareholder meetings, well, that’s too damn bad.

Warren Buffett:

That’s why we don’t have a public relations department.

Charlie Munger:

By the way…

I don’t think the job would be ill done, I just don’t think it would be done quite as well as Warren does it.

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