Berkshire investors: Company will endure after Buffett (302 hits)
(CBS/AP) OMAHA, Neb. — Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.A) shareholders make their annual pilgrimage here this weekend, and this year they have to confront an uncomfortable truth: Warren Buffett, Berkshire's CEO and the world's third-richest person, can't go on forever.
Investors would rather not imagine life without the Oracle of Omaha, who is 81 and said last month that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. And he has no plans to leave the post soon.
When the day comes, people who have studied the company say, Berkshire without Buffett will probably look a lot like Berkshire with Buffett.
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Berkshire, which owns 80 subsidiaries that range from a railroad to an upscale kitchen products company, is already decentralized: Of its 270,000 employees, just 24 work at Omaha headquarters.
The conglomerate has a succession plan in place. Berkshire will split Buffett's job into three when he's gone, and the board has chosen his successor - although Buffett has said that person doesn't know it yet.
And at least in the short term after Buffett, not unlike Apple in these first months after the death of Steve Jobs, there should be strong institutional pressure to keep doing things the way Buffett did them, Berkshire watchers say.
"Nobody is going to want to mess with what Warren Buffett built," says Jeff Matthews, a Berkshire shareholder and author of "Secrets in Plain Sight: Business and Investing Secrets of Warren Buffett."
To be sure, a Berkshire without Buffett would lose the sheen of celebrity. More than 30,000 shareholders are expected to be in Omaha for the annual meeting and related events that begin Friday.