Occasionally reporters like to jump ahead of the facts.
The Wall Street Journal profiled Tracy Britt last week, Warren Buffett’s financial assistant and drew attention to the fact that she could potentially be a person to succeed him as Berkshire Hathaway CEO someday. In truth, it seems like a good question to look into, and many people have done just that online and in print media.
But this is not exactly true, we learned from a Warren Buffett email sent by his personal assistant, Debbie Bosanek.
“I hope these facts put some unwarranted speculation to rest,” Buffett said.
Tracy Britt’s office is not right next to Warren Buffett’s, and it is much further down the hall. When you look at the sequence of the office, starting from Buffett’s corner office, you see the next is Bosanek’s, then comes Todd Combs office, then Britt’s office and then Ted Weschler’s office. Weschler and Combs manage many of Berkshire Hathaway’s investments.
Buffett’s nickname for Ted, Todd and Tracy is “the T’s.” He also mentions that Debbie Bosanek’s will be right next to his “as long as the two of us are around.”
Next, Britt applied for her job with Berkshire Hathaway right out of college and delivered a basket of tomatoes and corn to the headquarters in Omaha. Buffett did not hire Britt immediately. After college, she went to work for Fidelity investments. Buffett finally hired her during December of last year to work on a financial transaction. “I decided I needed her and hired her away from Fidelity,” said Buffett. “It was a great decision, as were the decisions to hire Todd and Ted.”
Last but not least, Buffett has often referred to his chosen successor by using male pronouns, and when reporters asked if all of the potential candidates are males, Buffett has replied “I’ve always said yes.”
As for the part about having Buffett’s successors named secretly hidden in an envelope – that’s always been a funny joke.
“I’ve also publicly stated many times that succession is the main topic of every meeting of directors and has been so for more than a decade,” said Buffett in the email. “They are 100 percent in agreement as to who my successor should be, and it remains a male.”
Buffett also tells us that the board of director’s choice to take over as his successor can change as the years pass.
Before the May Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting, Buffett publicly commented about the importance of women as business leaders. He said that maybe in 10 or 15 years as they were successor will be a woman, and added “I hope it is.”