NEW YORK – Warren Buffett, the billionaire chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is entrusting more of his companys investments to deputy stock pickers as he prepares the firm for his eventual departure.
Ted Weschler and Todd Combs, former hedge-fund managers hired in the past two years, will probably oversee about $4 billion apiece for Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire, Buffett said in an interview with Betty Liu on Bloomberg Televisions In the Loop. Each oversaw about $2.75 billion at the beginning of the year, he said.
They have terrific talent, Buffett said. I feel very, very, very good about where we are now versus a few years ago in terms of successor investment management.
Buffett, 81, has been readying a new generation of leaders as he prepares to hand over control of the company that he built over four decades through acquisitions and stock picks. Berkshire has ceded more money to Weschler, 51, and Combs, 41, and given them authority to manage the funds exactly as they see fit, he said. The two will oversee company investments after the billionaires departure.
Buffett has to assure himself and the firm that these people have the ability to deliver when hes gone, said Thomas Russo, a partner at Berkshire investor Gardner Russo & Gardner. If the experience is now just simply vetted trades that Warren would have done anyway, we havent moved the needle.
The largest investments in Berkshires $89.1 billion stock portfolio are still overseen by Buffett, who accumulated the biggest holdings in companies including Wells Fargo, Coca-Cola and American Express. Combs and Weschlers investments typically wont exceed $1 billion, Buffett said.
Berkshire has added shares of firms including MasterCard and DaVita in the past six quarters that are valued at less than that sum. Before joining Buffetts company, Combs invested in MasterCard at Castle Point Capital Management, while DaVita was among holdings at Weschlers Peninsula Capital Advisors.
Both stocks climbed since Berkshire bought them.
Buffett said he wasnt responsible for Berkshires new stake of 10 million shares of General Motors in the first quarter and declined to say which deputy made the investment. Most of the stock was accumulated at an average price of $24.35 through Feb. 3, regulatory filings show. The automaker has slumped 19 percent from that level, trading at over $19 this month.
Buffett is seeking to pay Weschler and Combs for long-term performance. They each earn a salary of $1 million as well as 10 percent of the amount by which their portfolios outperform the Standard & Poors 500 Index on a three-year rolling basis, the billionaire said at Berkshires annual shareholder meeting in May. Part of each managers pay is based on the others performance so they have an incentive to collaborate, he said.
They run their portfolios, Buffett told Liu. I cant hold them responsible for what they do unless I give them the authority within that total block of money.
The board has selected the next CEO and has backups, but isnt identifying them.