Edmonton-born Greg Abel picked as Warren Buffett’s successor as Berkshire Hathaway CEO

The Oracle of Omaha has named his successor, and the man he’s singled out to be his heir apparent was born and raised in Edmonton.

Berkshire Hathaway vice-chairman Greg Abel will be the next CEO of the conglomerate after founder Warren Buffett is no longer in the job, the company revealed over the weekend.

Buffett has no plans to step down any time soon, so the news doesn’t reveal some imminent change at the company. 

But Berkshire’s second in command, Charlie Munger, let it slip over the weekend that the plan was for Abel to be the next CEO of the empire Buffett started when he bought shares in an Omaha, Nebraska-based textile mill in 1962, and made it the holding company for an investment conglomerate with nearly $900 billion US in assets today.

Buffett himself confirmed the plan in an interview on U.S. financial news channel CNBC on Monday.

During an exchange at the annual meeting over the weekend about the importance of protecting Berkshire’s culture in the future, Buffett said Berkshire’s extremely decentralized operating model won’t work unless the company has the right culture.

Berkshire Hathaway vice-chairman Greg Abel, centre, seen in this photo from 2017, has been picked to succeed Warren Buffett as CEO of Berkshire, though the 90-year-old Buffett hasn’t indicated any plans to step down. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

The 96-year-old Munger responded: “But we do, and Greg will keep the culture.”

The 90-year-old Buffett told CNBC that if anything happened to him, Abel would be the one to take the top post. 

“The directors are in agreement that if something were to happen to me tonight, it would be Greg who’d take over tomorrow morning,” Buffett said to CNBC.

Abel was born in Edmonton, Alta., on June 1, 1962, which makes him almost 59 years old. He was educated at the University of Alberta with a degree in commerce, and he’s an accountant by training. He spent the first part of his career at various energy and utility companies, before Berkshire acquired a controlling stake in the company he was with at the time.

Officially, he’s the head of Berkshire Energy, but functionally he heads up all the parts of Berkshire’s business that aren’t insurance-related. 

The succession plan at Berkshire has never been made public, although the company has long said that it plans to split the role currently held by Buffett into three: one person to handle operations at Berkshire and related companies, and decide how to allocate capital at them. A second job would be to manage and pick publicly traded stocks for the company to buy into, and a third role would be board chairman.

The second executive role will go to 69-year-old Ajit Jain, who heads up Geico and other insurance businesses.

Buffett’s eldest son, Howard Buffett, who already serves on Berkshire’s board, is likely to become the company’s next chairman.

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