Speculation as to who would replace Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK) CEO Warren Buffett (90) and his partner Charlie Munger (97) has loomed for over a decade. Now, after years of speculation, Buffett has finally confirmed Gregory Abel (59) would be his successor.
Abel, currently one of the company’s three vice-chairman, has been working for Berkshire for over two decades now and has primarily served as president and later CEO of Berkshire’s Energy Holdings. Charlie Munger commented that he is confident Abel will “keep the culture” and analysts have reacted mostly positively on the choice.
The shareholder meeting, however, has also drawn shareholder concerns over environment, social and governance (ESG) factors into the spotlight. The asset management firm and Berkshire investor Blackrock (NYSE: BLK), voted on behalf of its investors against the re-election of the audit committee chairman and supported requests regarding climate-related risk management and the company’s diversity and inclusion program.
Abel specifically addressed these issues during the shareholder meeting, as they have direct effects on the energy and utility division he is overseeing. He said that Berkshire is striving to meet the standards of the Paris Climate Accords, but does not support the reporting requirements in shareholder proposals.
Buffett went even further, emphasizing the value of autonomy at Berkshire and calling attempts to get managers to fill out reports on carbon usage at all of its subsidiaries “asinine.”
What do you think, will Abel fill the big footsteps Buffett will leave in the future and manage Berkshire's future environmental risks?