By Jonathan Stempel and Michael Erman
NEW YORK Dec 11 Berkshire Hathaway Inc's
BNSF Railway Co moved Chief Executive Matthew Rose to
an executive chairman role, renewing speculation that he may be
in line to replace Warren Buffett at Berkshire's helm.
As executive chairman, Rose, 54, will work on activities
including organizational planning, market positioning and public
policy at BNSF over the next decade, the company said on
Carl Ice, 57, will replace Rose as chief executive at the
nation's largest railroad, beginning Jan. 1. Ice has been at the
railroad for 34 years, and has been president of BNSF since
"Buffett has a track record of retaining good executives for
long periods of times, and this will potentially free up Matt
Rose to assist with other projects with Berkshire as warranted,"
said James Armstrong, president of Henry H. Armstrong Associates
in Pittsburgh, which invests more than $400 million, roughly 25
percent of which is in Berkshire.
"Rose is likely on the short list to become CEO," Armstrong
Berkshire has been preparing to eventually replace Buffett,
83, considered by many to be one of the greatest investors ever,
for many years.
And questions about succession for Buffett, the
second-richest American, have picked up in recent years as he
has aged and battled prostate cancer.
Buffett has said that he and Berkshire's board are in
agreement on who would step in as chief executive when the need
arises, but has not yet publicly identified that person.
Aside from Rose, investors have speculated that this person
could be insurance chief Ajit Jain, MidAmerican Energy chief
Greg Abel, or perhaps portfolio manager Ted Weschler.
Berkshire plans after Buffett leaves to split his role in
three. The new chief executive will serve alongside Buffett's
son, Howard, who will be non-executive chairman. One or more
others will become the company's chief investment officer.
"BNSF's performance has far exceeded the high expectations I
had at the time of Berkshire's purchase," Buffett said in a
statement. "The combination of Matt's and Carl's talents is the
perfect arrangement for the future. I consider Berkshire very
fortunate to have these men at BNSF's helm."