The man Warren Buffett expects to succeed him at the helm of Berkshire Hathaway is worth an estimated $484 million thanks to a stake in its privately held energy subsidiary, despite owning very little of Berkshire’s publicly traded stock.
At Berkshire’s annual meeting on Saturday, Buffett’s longtime lieutenant Charles Munger made an off-handed comment that “Greg will keep the culture” as Berkshire grows more decentralized, suggesting that the company’s vice chairman, Greg Abel, will succeed Buffett as CEO. Buffett later confirmed to CNBC that Abel is the current choice to take over, saying, “The directors are in agreement that if something were to happen to me tonight, it would be Greg who’d take over tomorrow morning.”
Abel has been a leader at Berkshire since the Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate bought MidAmerican Energy in 2000 when he was its president. He became CEO of the company now named Berkshire Hathaway Energy in 2008 and served in that role until becoming Berkshire’s vice chairman in 2018.
Abel owns a 1% stake in Berkshire Hathaway Energy, billionaire Walter Scott owns 7.9% and Berkshire Hathaway owns the remaining 91.1% of the company, according to BHE’s 2020 annual report. Berkshire repurchased $126 million worth of shares from Scott on March 5, 2020, according to its latest proxy statement, valuing BHE at $53.4 billion. That makes Abel’s stake worth an estimated $480 million (Forbes discounts ownership stakes in privately held companies).
Abel’s piece of BHE makes up the vast majority of his net worth, Forbes estimates. He owns only five Berkshire Hathaway Class A shares in a trust and 2,363 Class B shares as a custodian for members of his family, according to the proxy statement. With Class A shares worth more than $400,000 per share and Class B shares trading at $280 for share as of Monday’s market close, that stake is worth about $2.8 million.