Buffett and his second-in-command, Charlie Munger, fielded hours of questions from shareholders, analysts, and journalists at Berkshire’s annual meeting.
Berkshire holds more than 80 companies and owns over $115bn of stocks. Its breadth and depth, which includes $63.7bn of cash, has given Berkshire a strong balance sheet that Buffett said will help it thrive should the economy, propped up by low interest rates that many expect to rise soon, heads south.
“We will be very willing to act if economic turbulence of any kind occurs, and will be prepared, and most people won’t be,” he said, denying that Berkshire needed special oversight by having become too big to fail.
Buffett gave no hints about who would succeed him, but said he would not want someone whose sole background is in investments to become chief executive. He offered ringing praise for the turnaround at Burlington Northern, Berkshire’s largest non-insurance unit.
Matt Rose, its chair, considered by some a potential Berkshire CEO candidate, was not mentioned by Buffett in his annual letter, which led some to believe his standing had been lowered.
Other potential candidates for the job include insurance executive Ajit Jain, whose decision to join Berkshire three decades ago was hailed by Buffett as one of the “luckiest” events he had experienced, and Gregory Abel, Berkshire’s energy chief.