What Charlie Munger's death means for Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway
- Charlie Munger, vice chair of Berkshire Hathaway and second-in-command to Warren Buffett, is dead at 99.
- With Munger's death, Greg Abel may have a closer working relationship with Buffett.
Charlie Munger, also known as Warren Buffett's right-hand man, died Tuesday at 99 — leaving open the role of vice chair of Berkshire Hathaway.
Munger served as the 93-year-old Buffett's second-in-command for years, amassing a net worth of nearly $2.3 billion while overseeing Berkshire Hathaway.
In 2006, Buffett said he once hoped Munger would take over the conglomerate but later acknowledged someone younger was needed to shepherd the billion-dollar business into the future.
What happens now?
In 2021, Buffett announced Greg Abel, the 61-year-old vice chairman of non-insurance operations at Berkshire, as his successor.
A Canadian businessman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Abel is a longtime company loyalist who is well-regarded among colleagues amid the looming leadership change necessitated by Buffett's aging.
With Munger's passing, Abel may have a closer working relationship with Buffett.
Munger himself said in 2021 that he believed Abel would "keep the culture" that made Berkshire so successful.
"Greg is just sensational at being a business leader, both as a thinker and as a doer. He's also just a tremendous learning machine — you can argue that he's just as good as Warren at learning all kinds of things," Munger once said of Abel.
"There's some things he's better at than Warren is, and Warren knows that, and he just keeps dumping on Greg everything that Greg can do better, and that's a lot," Munger added.
Who is Greg Abel?
Abel began his career working for PricewaterhouseCoopers before he joined geothermal electricity producer CalEngery in 1992.
He was named CEO of MidAmerican — now Berkshire Hathaway Energy — in 2008 and was named vice chairman of non-insurance operations for all of Berkshire Hathaway in 2018, securing himself a role on the conglomerate's board of directors that same year.
Abel's announcement as Buffett's successor in 2018 was met with a primarily positive response throughout the industry, with one equity expert calling him the "natural successor" to Buffett who was "groomed" for the post.
Abel was long thought to be Buffett's likely successor for years before the official announcement.
Why Greg Abel?
Even as Berkshire navigated historic inflation and high interest rates amid potential recession earlier this year, five CEOs of Berkshire subsidiaries praised Buffett and Abel's leadership in exclusive comments to Business Insider at the Berkshire Hathaway annual conference in Omaha in May this year.
Pat Egan, CEO of See's Candies, said Abel is the first call he makes when he needs advice, and added that he rarely needs to make a second call.
"Greg is a combination of a wonderfully great human being and a towering intellect," Egan told BI. "His ability to retain and process information is unlike anything I've ever seen."
Troy Bader, Dairy Queen CEO, meanwhile, praised Abel's sharp mind and willingness to help.
"Greg is always there, very quick study, very bright, knows the aspects of our business," Bader said. "Whenever I have needed Greg, he has always been there."
Over Thanksgiving, Buffett touched on the future of Berkshire and his legacy in a press release timed to a nearly $900 million donation to his family's foundations.
The billionaire said Abel and the board of directors are the right choices to lead the company into the future.
"Berkshire's advantage is that it has been built to last," Buffett wrote.
While his large stake in Berkshire will likely help maintain the company's legacy for a period after his death, Buffett said soon enough "Berkshire will earn the reputation it deserves."
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