‘Canadian with no front teeth’: Spotlight falls on the man replacing Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett, the world’s most famous investor, has for years toyed with his shareholders over who might one day take on his investment empire Berkshire Hathaway.

In 2006, the 90-year-old revealed that he had chosen an unnamed insider to take over if he “should die tonight”. Now Buffett, who is worth $US104 billion ($134 billion), has finally revealed his successor’s identity.

Berkshire vice chairman Greg Abel has been named as Warren Buffett’s likely successor.Credit:Bloomberg

Although the multi-billionaire has still given no indication that he is ready to step down, vice-chairman Greg Abel will, he said, someday take over as chief executive.

“The directors are in agreement that if something were to happen to me tonight, it would be Greg who’d take over tomorrow morning,” Buffett told CNBC.

Nicknamed the “Oracle of Edmonton” by Canadian newspapers, all eyes are now on the low profile 58-year-old who will be tasked with steering the ship when the world’s most famous investor retires.

Born in Edmonton, Canada, Abel has previously been described as a “workaholic” and has credited his mum for instilling a strong work ethic in him.

Over the coming months Buffett’s followers will want to learn more about the man who is to take over his investment empire and Abel will suddenly find himself under the spotlight.

She would sit him down after school to review what he had learned that day, the Globe wrote in 2019, and throughout high school and university he filled fire extinguishers at the fire and environmental equipment company his dad worked for.

In his high school yearbook under his future goals he simply wrote “U of A”, the Globe said, giving no hints of his plans to become a multi-millionaire and one day replace the world’s most famous investor.

Friends describe him as a private but social person, reportedly organising annual quail hunting trips to Georgia and yearly thanksgiving dinners with an open-door policy.

The hockey fan was once called “the Canadian who has no front teeth” by George H W Bush.

Buffett, 90, has not given any indication of when he will step away. Credit:Bloomberg

According to Toronto’s Globe and Mail, he lost a false tooth after putting it on a dinner tray the night before he was due to meet the former president and tried to approach him from an angle so that he didn’t notice.

Friends also told the Globe that he hides his talents behind a “wall of humility”, suggesting that such self-deprecating stories are typical of his character.

Like Buffett, who has lived in the same house since 1958 despite becoming one of the richest men in the world, they said Abel does not show off his wealth.

Yet behind the gags and modest lifestyle he is one of the youngest people on Berkshire’s board of directors with an estimated net worth of $US484 million, according to Forbes, despite owning just a small amount of Berkshire’s publicly traded stock.

He is in charge of the company’s non-insurance businesses with a portfolio that includes ice cream retailer Dairy Queen and underwear maker Fruit of the Loom.

Over the coming months Buffett’s followers will want to learn more about the man who is to take over his investment empire and Abel will suddenly find himself under the spotlight.

Humble demeanour

Russ Mould of AJ Bell says Abel’s “youth” relative to fellow contender Ajit Jain, his fellow co-chairman, proved decisive and Abel will want to prove he has more than just being young on his side.

Berkshire has shown that it values the contributions of Abel and Jain, after both men received $US19 million in compensation last year – well above the $US100,000 salary Buffett has received for more than 25 years.

Buffett has turned Berkshire Hathaway into a $US644 billion powerhouse.Credit:Bloomberg

Edward Jones analyst Jim Shanahan says it’s not a surprise that Abel will be Berkshire’s next chief executive.

“We have a great deal of comfort with Abel as CEO and with the overall future leadership of the company. I think he has proven to be a really effective leader,” says Shanahan, who points out that Abel handled questions about Berkshire’s efforts to respond to climate change well at the annual meeting.

Abel’s demeanour during questioning was more formal than the humour that marks presentations by Buffett, but that just may be to his advantage.

Buffett told investors at the weekend that the number one risk for businesses is choosing the wrong leader.

“You get a guy or a woman in charge of it – they’re personable, the directors like ’em – they don’t know what they’re doing. But they know how to put on an appearance. That’s the biggest single danger,” he warned, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In Abel, Buffett has chosen a man with far more than confidence and charm to lead his $US644 billion investment group.

Telegraph, London

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