Exec Who Could Replace Buffett Says CEO Shift Unrelated to Berkshire's Succession Plans

One of the Berkshire Hathaway executives who is widely seen as a top candidate to eventually take over Warren Buffett's CEO duties, says we shouldn't read anything special into his decision to step down as chief executive at MidAmerican Energy Holdings.

David Sokol tells the Omaha World-Herald it was simply time for veteran President Gregory Abel to step up at Berkshire's energy subsidiary: "It's a matter of recognizing Greg's contributions. He's ready to be CEO ... When somebody's ready, they should get the opportunity."

Sokol will remain Chairman at MidAmerican after Abel takes on the CEO role. He tells the World-Herald he will still be concentrating on the energy company. "My 100 percent allegiance is to Berkshire and MidAmerican. I'm not going anywhere." (Literally. His office has been in Omaha even though Mid-American is based in Des Moines, Iowa. That is not changing.)

The newspaper reports, "Sokol said that any discussion about Berkshire's CEO would come from Buffett and that Abel's promotion is not related to Berkshire's succession plan."

Of course, Buffett-watchers aren't waiting for their own discussion. Reuters quotes Frank Betz at Carret/Zane Capital Management in New Jersay as saying:

"I've been saying for three years that David Sokol is the obvious successor for Berkshire, and I may be dead wrong... To me, it's a clarion call ...(Sokol) has very successfully run MidAmerican. It frees him from the day-to-day responsibilities of running MidAmerican to do whatever else might be on his menu."

Mohnish Pabrai, who bought last year's 'Lunch with Warren' for charity, says, "Many people have called MidAmerican a mini-Berkshire... This heightens the odds that (Sokol) is one of the three guys." Buffett has said that three canididates for the CEO job have already been identified by Berkshire, but he hasn't named any names.

Thomas Russo at Gardner, Russo & Gardner is a bit more cautious. He tells Reuters, "It's still too early to know. This is the first move affecting (someone on) the well-considered list of successors who is changing his day job."
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