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The question of who will succeed Warren Buffett has captivated Berkshire Hathaway shareholders for more than a decade.
But this weekend investors received the biggest hint yet of who that successor might be.
The $631bn conglomerate reported first-quarter earnings on Saturday and held its annual meeting, which was virtual for the second year in a row because of Covid-19.
Buffett and his 97-year-old deputy Charlie Munger were joined on stage by Greg Abel and Ajit Jain. The pair were given vice-chair roles in 2018 and are the top two lieutenants seen as the most likely successors to Buffett, who turns 91 in August.
While Munger and Buffett were sparring over whether Berkshire could ever be too large to manage, the deputy chair let a comment slip that got observers’ tongues wagging about the succession, which is top secret.
“Greg will keep the culture,” Munger said in a back and forth with Buffett, who he has served as deputy with for more than six decades.
Buffett’s succession plan has drawn fire from some big shareholders. A plan has been drawn up by the board but the heir apparent has been kept from the public. Shareholder BlackRock has said that Buffett’s outsized leadership role at Berkshire presents a risk.
For Cathy Seifert, an analyst who covers Berkshire for CFRA Research and watched the three-and-a-half hours of questioning on Saturday, Munger’s aside settled the question of who will succeed Buffett when he steps down. “From Berkshire’s perspective the succession issue has been resolved and to paraphrase . . . they’ve got Greg.”
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Spac share prices slump Shares in businesses that went public through deals with “blank-cheque” vehicles have dropped an average of two-fifths from their highs as appetite for the once red-hot sector of US markets cools rapidly, according to a Financial Times analysis of Spacs that acquired businesses worth more than $1bn.
Apollo close to buying Verizon media assets US private equity group Apollo Global Management is close to acquiring Yahoo and the other media assets of Verizon Communications, people familiar with the situation said, as the telecom group shifts its focus to its core network businesses and a rollout of 5G wireless technology.
Credit Suisse made just $17.5m in Archegos fees Credit Suisse made only $17.5m of revenue last year from Archegos Capital, the family office whose sudden collapse in March led to losses of $5.4bn for the Swiss bank. The paltry fees raises further questions about the risks the lender was prepared to shoulder in pursuit of relationships with ultra-wealthy clients.
Janet Yellen defends higher taxes The US Treasury secretary urged Congress to stick to the White House’s plan to pay for its $4.1tn investment plans with higher taxes, arguing for the need to contain deficits over the long term. Higher capital gains taxes on the wealthy could lead to a shift to ETFs. (FT, Bloomberg)
India’s ruling BJP suffers state election setbacks Narendra Modi suffered a significant political blow when his party failed to win power in West Bengal following an aggressive campaign that has been blamed for stoking a wave of infections. “No one has ever seen anything like this,” said a chief cremator in Varanasi, one of four people who shared their experiences of India’s crisis.
Manchester Utd fans protest against ownership Fans stormed into the English football club’s stadium and on to the pitch on Sunday to protest against the team’s owners, the billionaire US Glazer family, and their plan to join the abandoned breakaway Super League.
Apple vs Epic Games The tech giant and the Fortnite maker head to court on Monday over whether Apple is running a monopoly with its App Store. Epic, which has also filed a lawsuit against the iPhone maker in the EU, argues the 30 per cent fee Apple charges App Store purchases is unfair. (WaPo, FT)
Economic data The ISM manufacturing index for April is expected to show strong demand for factory goods. Jay Powell, Fed chair, will discuss the economy at a virtual event held by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. (WSJ, C-Span)
Dominic Raab-Antony Blinken meeting The UK foreign minister and US secretary of state are set to discuss China, Afghanistan, Iran and trade ahead of the first in-person G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in two years. (Reuters)
Northern Ireland centenary Northern Ireland will mark a century of separation from its southern neighbour today. It is battling tough odds to reverse decades of economic underperformance since partition of Ireland on May 3 1921. (FT)
Join the Global Boardroom on May 4-6 to hear from more than 120 influential leaders on the impact of the pandemic and what steps are needed to support a sustainable recovery. As a valued subscriber you can register for a Professional Pass worth $149 for free using the code PREMIUM200. (Not available to anyone with an existing Professional Pass)
Joe Biden’s battles have just begun Rebuilding the industrial base of America and transitioning to a green economy is a multi-decade proposition and underscores the tension between short-term versus long-term priorities, writes Rana Forooha. (FT)
Fed framework holds central bank hostage The Federal Reserve is being held hostage by its own framework of waiting for months before responding to inflationary pressures, writes Mohamed El-Erian. (FT)
Churches become a Covid battleground in Brazil The ruling by Brazil’s Supreme Court that local officials could temporarily ban in-person religious services in the face of soaring Covid-19 infections was, for many conservative Christians in the country, an infringement of both a fundamental right and their identity. (FT)
Ron Klain, the man executing Biden’s mission The White House chief of staff is among the key architects of Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office. “If the Trump White House was a smoking, backfiring jalopy, then the Biden White House is a finely tuned Rolls-Royce,” says Chris Whipple, author of The Gatekeepers, a book about the role. (FT)
How much trouble is Boris Johnson in? The Conservatives are well ahead in polls for local and mayoral elections on Thursday. But a feud with Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings has raised questions about the prime minister’s character. (FT)
The loneliness of the modern office There is a gloomy reason that even well-paid, valued people in lofty jobs may be in no rush to go back to the office: long before the outbreak, they were lonely, writes Pilita Clark. Their relationships with colleagues felt shallow. Plus, there was that terrible fluorescent lighting. (FT, NY Mag)
News Briefing The trial between Epic Games and Apple is set to kick off today, and the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline is back in federal court. Plus, the FT’s south-east Europe correspondent, Valerie Hopkins, explains the love-hate relationships that Serbians have with Chinese investment in their country.