OMAHA, Nebraska - When Greg Abel succeeds Warren Buffett at the helm of Berkshire Hathaway , he is expected to preserve the culture at the behemoth even if he does not match the star power of his legendary boss.

A 25-year Berkshire veteran, Vice Chairman Abel, 61, is expected by investors and analysts to uphold the $865 billion conglomerate's track record of investing in companies for the long haul and eschewing dividend payments to shareholders.

Berkshire, which owns railroads, insurance companies and an ice-cream maker, has been planning for decades for the eventuality when Buffett, 93, who has run the company since 1965, is no longer there.

Even though Buffett has shown no signs of wanting to step aside, investor focus on Berkshire's future came to the fore again after Charlie Munger, Buffett's long-time friend and business partner, died in November at age 99. At Berkshire's annual shareholder meeting in Omaha on Saturday, investors questioned Buffett and Abel about succession.

"We have a very special company in Berkshire, but it's that culture that makes it special, and that's not going to change," Abel, who was designated Buffett's successor as chief executive in 2021, said at the shareholder meeting.

Buffett repeatedly assured shareholders that Berkshire is in good hands, saying that Abel is "in charge of really everything except insurance" these days.

"We (have) got the same feeling in terms of judging the attractiveness of businesses and making capital decision and that sort of thing," Buffett said.

That sentiment was echoed by Ronald Olson, a Berkshire director.

"Greg understands the (Berkshire) culture and he will honour that," said Olson ahead of the meeting. "Greg doesn't think of himself as Warren Buffett, but I have no doubt seeing Greg running (Berkshire) the same way."

Abel and Berkshire did not respond to requests for interviews.


Gregory Edward Abel was born in Edmonton, Alberta, on June 1, 1962, to a working-class family. Working odd jobs, he cleaned discarded bottles and filled fire extinguishers, according to the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, an education non-profit that honoured Abel in 2018.

“It was a real working-class family where sometimes people had jobs and sometimes they didn’t,” Abel said of his childhood in a video posted on the Horatio Alger website. “You realised we were all working hard to try to advance our family.”

Abel graduated in 1984 from the University of Alberta and worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers and energy firm CalEnergy. He joined Berkshire Hathaway Energy, then known as MidAmerican Energy, in 1992, which Berkshire took over in 1999 and became MidAmerican's chief in 2008. He now oversees Berkshire's non-insurance operations such as BNSF, Berkshire Hathaway Energy and dozens of chemical, industrial and retail operations.

Some executives who work with Abel say he scrutinises financial metrics such as inventory levels, cash flows, capital expenditure and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

"Greg looks at our inventory levels more than Warren did. He will sometimes circle it and be like 'Oh, that looks high,'" Adrienne Perry, chief revenue officer at Borsheims, a Berkshire-owned jeweller, said last week at a talk in Omaha.

Dan Sheridan, chief executive of Brooks Running, a maker of running shoes that is owned by Berkshire, said Abel advises his executives broadly, but keeps an eye on the bottom line.

"If there are warts on your balance sheet, he's going to find them," Sheridan said in an interview.

Even Buffett conceded on Saturday that Abel is a tougher boss.

"We haven't had a history of being very tough on people that coasted and we've had some that would do that," Buffett said. "Greg will do something about it and Charlie and I wouldn't have."


According to Berkshire’s succession plan, Abel will replace Buffett in making all major investment and capital allocation decisions. Vice Chairman Ajit Jain, who joined Berkshire in 1986, according to Berkshire’s website, will oversee insurance operations.

Buffett said on Saturday he would want Abel to have final say on decisions regarding Berkshire's portfolio of public stocks.

“I would leave the capital allocation to Greg," Buffett said on Saturday. "He understands businesses extremely well, and if you understand businesses you understand common stocks.”

The transition “has already begun because Warren, five years ago, shifted these responsibilities onto Greg and Ajit directly,” said Adam Mead, the CEO of Mead Capital and author of “The Complete History of Berkshire Hathaway.”

Buffett indicated on Saturday that his subordinates are already taking on much more of the day-to-day responsibility.

“The number of calls I get from managers is essentially awfully close to zero and Greg is handling those," Buffett said. "I don’t know quite how he does it, but we’ve got the right person, I can tell you that.”

(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing in Omaha; additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; editing by Megan Davies and Diane Craft)