Hints of Buffett’s Possible Berkshire Hathaway Successor Come to Light

By all appearances, it’s surprising to see that Burlington Northern Santa Fe CEO Matt Rose is going to step down and take on the position of executive chairman.

The current COO and President Carl Ice, who’s worked with BNSF for 34 years, will assume the role of CEO on January 1, 2014.

This move by Rose, which has him backing away from Burlington Northern’s day-to-day duties, increases speculation among those watching to see who assumes the role as the next successor as Berkshire Hathaway CEO.

But at the same time, a recent press release leads us to believe that Rose will be a part of BNSF operations for many years to come.

The press release tells us that “over the next decade, Rose will continue to work with BNSF’s leadership on the activities supporting BNSF strategic positioning for growth and investment, including long-term organizational planning, market positioning and public policy.”

Buffett is also noted as saying the “combination of Matt’s and Carl’s talents is the perfect arrangement for the future.”

Late in 2009, Buffett and Berkshire announced the $26 billion purchase of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. Buffett said that it is a “bet on the country.”

Buffett’s serious endorsement of Rose’s leadership, coupled with the strong performance of the railroad have led many to add him to the short list of potential Berkshire Hathaway CEO successors when Buffett finally decides that it’s time to leave the job. Some of the other potential successors are Greg Abel of MidAmerican Energy, Tony Nicely from Geico and Ajit Jain, Buffett’s reinsurance chief.

Buffett repeatedly tells us that he does not plan to step down anytime soon, but last May during the shareholder weekend he mentioned that he and the board of directors are “solidly in agreement” on who would become the new company CEO if Buffett were to suddenly pass on from this world or not have the ability to continue doing the job.

He also mentioned that there are three internal candidates to become the next CEO, and they are all men.