Warren Buffett cautioned against reading too much into hisdecision to expand deputy Ajit Jain's responsibilities, saying April 30 thatBerkshire Hathaway Inc.has not made any final decisions on who will eventually succeed him atop theconglomerate.
Buffett in early April tapped Jain to supervise following theretirement of CEO TadMontross at the end of 2016. That will consolidate Berkshire's reinsuranceoperations under the 64-year-old, a move that added to the speculation thatJain is in line to replace Buffett as Berkshire's next CEO. Buffett oftenpraises Jain during public appearances and in shareholders letters and hasentrusted him with much of the company's insurance and reinsurance businesses.
But at Berkshire's annual shareholders meeting, Buffett saidhe put Jain in charge of Gen Re simply because he could handle the extraworkload.
"I have found with really able people, they can handleso much," he said. "If I had something else tomorrow in insurancethat needed doing, I'd probably call Ajit on that too."
Berkshire has selectedBuffett's successor but refused to name that person publicly, a decision thatBuffett said gives it the flexibility to change its mind down the road. Yetthat has fueled intense interest in the choice, especially as the 85-year-oldBuffett gets older and Berkshire grows larger. Both Jain and Montross werewidely considered among the top CEO candidates, following the controversialdeparture of formerexecutive David Sokol.
"Five years from now, something different could makesense. That's one reason for not announcing any names," Buffett said. "Thereare no tea leaves to read in the fact that Ajit is supervising Gen Re from thispoint forward."