Berkshire Hathaway's future after Charlie Munger's passing

The death of Warren Buffett's longtime business partner puts Berkshire Hathaway's succession plan under the spotlight

The death of Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett's longtime friend and business partner, marks the loss of one half of the legendary investing duo that has run the multibillion-dollar conglomerate for decades. But both have assured shareholders for years that the company's future is in good hands.

Warren Buffett Charlie Munger

Warren Buffett, left, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger attend the annual shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 3, 2019. (Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Buffett, now 93, informed investors in 2006 that Berkshire has a succession plan, and at the company's annual shareholder meeting in 2021, he said the next CEO after him would likely be Greg Abel, who oversees the company's non-insurance division.

"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, according to a CNBC report at the time.

CHARLIE MUNGER, FRIEND AND BUSINESS PARTNER OF WARREN BUFFETT, DEAD AT 99

FOX Business reported in 2018 that Abel is the most likely candidate to receive the reins at Berkshire after the Oracle of Omaha, citing "Buffettologists."

Greg Abel and Ajit Jain headshots

Greg Abel, left, and Ajit Jain. (Getty Images | Reuters)

Abel became a vice chairman at Berkshire in 2018, along with Ajit Jain, who runs the conglomerate's insurance businesses. Buffett and Munger have regularly heaped praise on both men, who are viewed as primary contenders as Buffett's successor, but Buffett said age is a determining factor for the board.

"If, heaven forbid, anything happened to Greg tonight then it would be Ajit," Buffett said. "They’re both wonderful guys. The likelihood of someone having a 20-year runway though makes a real difference."

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Besides the two top executives, Berkshire's plan also calls for Buffett's eldest son Howard Buffett to become non-executive chairman, charged mainly with preserving Berkshire's culture.

Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, who help Buffett run Berkshire's $300 billion-plus common stock portfolio — about half of which is in one stock, Apple — appear in line to take over all of it.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
BRK.A BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY INC. 611,032.00 +6,888.00 +1.14%
BRK.B BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY INC. 405.24 +5.63 +1.41%

Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.

Charlie Munger

Charlie Munger speaks to members of the media during a shareholders shopping day ahead of the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 3, 2019. (Houston Cofield/Bloomberg / Getty Images)

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For many observers, it is difficult to imagine a Berkshire without Buffett and Munger running the show. But Munger insisted at the 2021 shareholders meeting, "Greg will keep the culture."

Reuters contributed to this report.