(Corrects word in quote by Burlington Northern CEO to
"consumption" instead of "construction" in 7th graph)
* Does not name successor, in keeping with practice
* One candidate says economy picking up
* Annual meeting opens with Buffett-Bon Jovi duet
By Jonathan Stempel and Jennifer Ablan
OMAHA, Neb., May 4 Warren Buffett and the board
of his conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway Inc are
"solidly in agreement" on who should be the company's next chief
executive, he said at Berkshire's annual shareholder meeting on
But Buffett, as with past practice, did not actually name
his successor as CEO. Speculation usually focuses on a small
group of top Berkshire executives, among them insurance boss
Ajit Jain and railroad leader Matt Rose.
The 82-year-old Buffett, in response to a shareholder
question, said he thinks all the time about what could go wrong
at Berkshire after he is gone.
"The key is preserving a culture and having a successor, a
CEO that will have more brains, more energy, more passion for it
than even I have ... We're solidly in agreement as to who that
individual should be," Buffett said.
Whoever ultimately takes over Berkshire will run a
conglomerate that employs more than a quarter-million people in
dozens of businesses worldwide, covering everything from ice
cream to insurance and retail to railroads.
Its breadth means that its performance is often seen as a
barometer for the broader economy. Earlier Saturday, one of
Buffett's top lieutenants said things were picking up but could
"It feels like a 2 percent economy. If we want to see GDP
click up to 3.5 percent, 4 percent, you need to see more
consumption," said Rose, CEO of the railroad Burlington
Northern, in an interview.
Rose said BNSF was seeing "across the board" increases in
demand to ship things like concrete, roofing tiles and cars.
But as much as investors want to hear about Berkshire's
growth potential and the state of the economy, some also attend
the meeting just for a good laugh.
The meeting opened, as it does every year, with a video
montage. This year's included a duet between Buffett and singer
Jon Bon Jovi and a take-off on the TV series "Breaking Bad."
Some of the best comedy, though, usually comes in the verbal
sparring between Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger over
the course of the day. The two are close - they usually share an
oversize box of peanut brittle during the meeting - but Munger's
acerbic tongue pops out from time to time.
"I come to see Charlie Munger needle Warren Buffett - only
he can," said Sherman Silber, a doctor and shareholder.
(Writing by Ben Berkowitz; editing by Matthew Lewis and Bob