Bloomberg News

Howard Buffett Affirms Father’s Intention to Work Until Death

October 13, 2011

Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Howard Buffett said his father, billionaire Warren Buffett, plans to work until death leading Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and isn’t considering retirement.

“That word is not in his vocabulary,” Howard Buffett said in an interview yesterday in Des Moines, Iowa. “He says when he goes to the grave he will communicate with us via Ouija board.”

Warren Buffett, 81, has told Berkshire shareholders for at least 20 years that the company is prepared for succession in case he dies or becomes incapacitated. Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire cited Buffett’s eventual “retirement” in a statement last month announcing the hiring of an investment manager. Buffett biographer Andrew Kilpatrick said he had never seen a Berkshire reference to his retirement before then.

“As hard-working as his dad probably is, it makes sense that he would think he’s going to stay as long as he can,” said Tom Lewandowski, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co., who has a “buy” rating on Berkshire shares. “The other side of that coin is the acknowledgement that if he can’t do it at the same capacity as he did it before, he’ll walk away.”

Buffett, the father, oversees more than $100 billion in securities and about 70 subsidiaries he acquired in four decades leading Berkshire. Howard Buffett, a Berkshire director since 1993, is part of a 12-member board whose biggest responsibility is assembling the next generation of managers.

“The primary job of our directors is to select my successor, either upon my death or disability, or when I begin to lose my marbles,” Buffett said in a shareholder letter published in 2004. Buffett is chairman, chief executive officer and head of investments.

Investment Managers

Berkshire on Sept. 12 announced the hiring of hedge-fund manager Ted Weschler, who will help oversee the portfolio with 40-year-old Todd Combs, hired last year. Buffett will continue to manage most of the holdings “until his retirement,” Berkshire said in a statement. Kilpatrick, who wrote “Of Permanent Value: The Story of Warren Buffett,” said “that’s the first time I’ve seen that word.”

Howard Buffett is the president of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which aids the development of agriculture in poorer nations. Buffett, a Coca-Cola Co. director, was in Des Moines to deliver a speech at the World Food Prize conference.

--With assistance from Maryellen Tighe in New York. Editors: Dan Kraut, Dan Reichl

To contact the reporters on this story: Alan Bjerga in Des Moines, Iowa, at abjerga@bloomberg.net; Andrew Frye in New York at afrye@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net; Dan Kraut at dkraut2@bloomberg.net.


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