WRAPUP 3-Buffett believes reputation after Sokol still intact

Sun May 1, 2011 6:58pm EDT

 * Buffett faces global media at end of shareholder weekend
 * Believes Sokol affair hasn't changed his reputation
 * Unlikely next CEO will come from outside
 (Recasts; adds comments on jobs, Trump and international
markets)
 By Ben Berkowitz
 OMAHA, Neb., May 1 (Reuters) - Warren Buffett believes his
reputation is intact, the U.S. economy needs more jobs and that
Donald Trump is not going to be the next president.
 He offered those and dozens of other opinions in a
wide-ranging news conference on Sunday that capped off the
annual meeting weekend for Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N)(BRKb.N),
his ice-cream-to-insurance conglomerate.
 Buffett also told Reuters Insider in an interview that none
of the people on Berkshire's secret CEO succession list know
they are on the list -- but the top candidate for the job will
not need any convincing to take it.
 The succession issue was bound to be the front-and-center
topic this weekend given the scandal surrounding David Sokol,
the former head of two Berkshire businesses who was once seen
as Buffett's heir apparent. He resigned in March and is now
being probed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for
his purchases of stock in a company he pushed Buffett to buy.
 Buffett is known for his honest dealings and folksy manner,
an image he has cultivated and one he believes is untarnished
despite defending Sokol and then referring him to the SEC.
 "Everything I do is out there for the people to judge,"
Buffett said. "I don't hold myself to a standard of perfection
or I'd have committed suicide a long time ago."
 Buffett headed into this year's annual meeting faced with
tough questions from the global media and shareholders
looking for his thoughts on the Sokol affair, a succession 
plan and the economy at large. He did not disappoint.
 Considering the tone before the meeting, Buffett seem to
emerge relatively unscathed. Most questions sought his opinion
rather than press him on misdeeds perceived or alleged.
 And after the meeting, many of the reporters swarmed
Buffett like a rock star, hankering for pictures and autographs
on their dollar bills.
<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
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 OUTSIDER 'IMPOSSIBLE'
 With Sokol out of the picture, Buffett has a preferred
successor in mind, one who will not need convincing in his
estimation. Many shareholders assume it will be Berkshire
reinsurance boss Ajit Jain.
 Buffett said "it would be almost impossible" to consider a
CEO from outside Berkshire.
 One man who seemingly will not be under consideration -- or
on a Berkshire Christmas card list any time soon -- is
businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump, who is very
publicly mulling a run for president.
 The biggest laughs of the day came from a question on
Trump's prospects for the White House.
 "Obviously, I think he's a jerk," Berkshire's Vice Chairman
Charlie Munger said, with Buffett adding in a more diplomatic
way that he did not expect Trump to win the presidency.
 INTERNATIONAL FAVORITES
 With a largely international audience, Buffett took
questions on a range of countries and their business
prospects.
 Buffett said Brazil was on Berkshire's radar, and that the
company was actively making and looking at smaller bolt-on
deals in Canada. Munger spoke admiringly of the Korean business
community and praised the way the Chinese government has
managed its currency.
 But there was criticism too. Munger saved some of his
harshest words for poverty and corruption in India, and Buffett
questioned whether the Eurozone could survive the strain of the
sovereign debt crisis.
 As he has been of late, Buffett remained solidly in the
corner of the United States, saying the Obama administration
was rightly focusing on jobs and that the dynamics of the
economy would change when excess housing inventory was
depleted.
 A reporter from China asked Buffett what he would do if he
was running that country's giant sovereign wealth fund.
 His answer was no surprise: he'd buy stocks -- especially
American ones.
 (Reporting by Ben Berkowitz in Omaha, writing by Ben
Berkowitz and by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by Bernard
Orr)


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