By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – The recent passing of Charlie Munger, Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, marks the end of an era and shines a light on the company’s existing leadership, leaving Warren Buffett as the conglomerate’s solitary investment icon.
With the death of Munger comes a new era and a shift in the spotlight to managers who have been in the shadows, coexisting with the storied duo of Buffett and Munger over the years.
Known for their six-decade partnership, Munger’s passing, five weeks shy of his 100th birthday, pushes Vice Chairmen Greg Abel and Ajit Jain to the forefront, assuming the role of top advisers to the 93-year-old Buffett.
Abel and Jain, who respectively manage the conglomerate’s non-insurance and insurance businesses, have been in the public’s eye only over the past three years, and are now tasked with filling the considerable shoes left by their predecessors.
Though the two Vice Chairmen are said to embrace Berkshire’s culture of autonomy and decentralization, they have their own distinct styles when compared to Buffett and Munger.
A unique relationship characterized the duo of Buffett and Munger, with Abel and Jain adopting a different approach to their own business dynamics, but still regularly consulting one another for guidance.
According to Bill Stone, chief investment officer at Glenview Trust, investors maintain confidence in the company despite the transition, noting that Abel and Jain don’t need to replicate Buffett or Munger’s legacy to succeed.
Berkshire has had a succession plan in place since 2006, with inadvertently signaled CEO designee Greg Abel set to lead the company and Ajit Jain to retain oversight of insurance operations, once Buffett eventually steps down.
Further potential changes lie ahead for the company, as investors eagerly await how Abel’s willingness to shed underperforming businesses may impact Berkshire’s future course, especially in light of the company’s storied “buy and hold” strategy.
Buffett’s endorsement of Abel and Jain assures investors of the confidence in their ability to steer the company forward and maintain its illustrious reputation.
With changes on the horizon, Berkshire’s annual meeting, long known as the “Woodstock for Capitalists,” and an iconic event for shareholders, is set to evolve as leadership transitions take place.
As Buffett and Munger’s legacy continues, investors, fans, and shareholders will watch closely to see how the future of Berkshire Hathaway unfolds.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Megan Davies, Paritosh Bansal and Stephen Coates)