Buffett's Successor Resigns
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
NPR's Sonari Glinton has the story.
SONARI GLINTON: Inside of Berkshire Hathaway, David Sokol was sort of a go-to guy. He ran several important companies for Warren Buffett. He started off running MidAmerican Energy, a utility company. And when Buffett needed someone to run John Mansville, an insulation and roofing company, he got David Sokol. He needed someone to run Netjets, a timeshare for jets, he got David Sokol.
DAVID SOKOL: But the reality is what I like to do is build companies, and Berkshire is a place when, if you have my personality, you get pulled into a lot of detail.
GLINTON: People are often suggesting that Buffet buy companies, including David Sokol, who made a suggestion about a chemical company called Lubrizol. Let's go back to Sokol on CNBC.
SOKOL: I made a decision to buy some shares. When I mentioned to Warren that I thought there was an opportunity perhaps for Berkshire, I told him that I owned some shares, and frankly, I didn't think he had any interest.
GLINTON: Sokol was wrong. A short time later, Berkshire announced a deal to buy Lubrizol for $9 billion. If Sokol had been Berkshire's investment officer or were on the company's board, which he wasn't, but if he were, it would've been an illegal practice called front-running. That's where...
BOB MILES: You buy a stock with full knowledge that the stock is going to be purchased in a takeover for a higher price.
GLINTON: Bob Miles has written three books on Berkshire Hathaway and Warren Buffett. Miles doesn't believe Sokol did anything wrong.
MILES: Because he didn't know that Buffett would agree with him that it was indeed a good value and that he would be offering a premium for the stock.
GLINTON: Many analysts, like Gary Bradshaw, believe the controversy is really is about the bigger worry: Who's going to succeed Warren Buffett, who's 80 years old?
GARY BRADSHAW: Shoot, Buffett's going strong. He'll probably outlive us all. But that's not the norm.
GLINTON: Bradshaw is a portfolio manager at Hodges Capital Management in Dallas. He says many on Wall Street view Berkshire Hathaway as a one-man show, and that's a problem.
BRADSHAW: Is the Detroit Tiger baseball team going to be as good going forward if they've got to put a rookie in as a starter? You know, it applies to having to replace Warren. He'd be a tough bat to replace.
GLINTON: Sonari Glinton, NPR News.
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