After years of speculation about who will succeed Warren Buffett as the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, Buffett has put an end to the gossip by announcing vice-chairman Greg Abel as his heir. Speaking to CNBC, the 90-year-old head of Berkshire confirmed “the directors are in agreement that if something were to happen to me tonight, it would be Greg who’d take over tomorrow morning.” So far, Warren Buffett hasn’t signaled any intention to step down, but if that were to happen, what do we need to know about the man stepping into his shoes? We’ve dug through the dirt to find ten things you didn’t know about Greg Abel.
1. He’s an Edmonton native
Abel was born and raised in Edmonton, Canada. Growing up, he became passionate about hockey, an interest sparked by his uncle, Sid Abel, a Hall of Famer who played with the Detroit Red Wings. Academically, he was no slouch – after leaving high school, he studied commerce at the University of Alberta before gaining his AICPA certification.
2. He’s always been a grafter
Growing up in a working-class neighborhood of Edmonton, Abel developed a healthy respect for money from a young age. By the time he was a teenager, he was already hustling, picking up any odd job he could to stretch out his pocket money. According to The Globe and Mail, his main jobs included delivering advertising flyers and filling fire extinguishers for the business where his father, a salesman, worked.
3. He began his career at PwC
After graduating from the University of Alberta, Abel began his professional career as a chartered accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers in their San Francisco office. After several years with the company, he flew the nest in 1992 when he joined the geothermal electricity producer, CalEnegy. Seven years later, CalEnergy bought out MidAmerican Energy, took on its name, and came under the scope of Berkshire Hathaway a year later when it acquired a controlling interest in the business. In 2014, MidAmerican was renamed Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE). Abel has been its CEO since 2008.
4. He was named to the board in 2018
After a decade proving his worth as the CEO of BHE, Abel was appointed to Berkshire Hathaway’s board of directors in 2018. At the same time, he assumed the role of vice chairman for non-insurance operations. According to Wikipedia, he also serves as vice-chairman of Edison Electric Institute, and as a director of the Hockey Canada Foundation, the American Football Coaches Foundation, Kraft Heinz, the Mid-Iowa Council Boy Scouts of America, Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited, and Associated Electric & Gas Insurance Services Limited,
5. He’s a multi-millionaire
Abel might have a long, long way to go before he catches up with Buffett in the wealth stakes (the Berkshire CEO is estimated to be worth around $105 billion), but he’s not exactly struggling to make ends meet in the meantime. According to Forbes, Buffett’s heir apparent is worth a giant $484 million. The bulk of his wealth is derived from a 1% stake in Berkshire Hathaway Energy. As BHE is currently valued at $53.4 billion, that makes Abel’s stake worth around $480 million.
6. He likes to fly under the radar
He may have cash to spare, but Abel is far from ostentatious. In his professional life, he’s known as someone who likes to fly under the radar, only giving interviews where and when necessary. He’s much the same in his personal life. He might have a share of a private plane through Berkshire holding NetJets, but that’s as close to the lifestyles of the rich and famous he gets. Despite having a reputation as a philanthropist, for example, he never makes any of his donations or endeavors public knowledge. His friends say he’s helped out numerous employees who’ve experienced serious health issues and has even paid the college tuition for one employee’s children after a death in the family. Abel himself, on the other hand, is keeping mum about the whole thing.
7. He’s still as passionate as ever
He might be several decades into his career, but Abel is far from jaded. Speaking to horatioalger.org in 2018, he explained how he’s still as enthusiastic as ever. “I want to have an impact. I want to roll up my sleeves and be actively engaged in making our company successful,” he said. “I think hard work leads to good outcomes. In my schooling, in sports, and in my business positions, I learned that if I put in a lot of work and was well-prepared, then success would be more likely.”
8. He’s a party guy
He might like to fly under the radar, but Abel is far from the shy, retiring type. According to his neighbors, he and his wife have an open-door policy to Thanksgiving and are regulars at the Iowa State Fair. He also organizes an annual quail hunting excursion to Georgia with friends, all of whom have a free pass to come on over to Abel’s whenever there’s a hockey or football game on TV.
9. He’s Buffett’s natural successor
During Berkshire Hathaway’s most recent annual meeting, vice chairman Charlie Munger announced that should Buffett step down from the helm, Abel would be the one to fill his shoes. Shortly after, Buffett confirmed the news publically, adding that if anything happened to Abel, Ajit Jain, who heads up the firm’s insurance business, would step in. Abel, who at 59 is a decade younger than Jain, is considered the natural choice by virtue of age if nothing else. If he gets the job, there’s a higher chance that he’ll stay at Berkshire for at least a couple of decades – something that’s clearly an advantage to Buffet, who noted, “The likelihood of someone having a 20-year runway though makes a real difference.”
10. He’s Buffett’s blue-eyed boy
Buffett may have only recently confirmed Abel as his successor, but he’s been making no secret of his admiration for the BHE CEO for years. Back in 2013, he told omaha.com, “I always make time for Greg when he calls, because he brings me great ideas and is truly innovative in his thinking and business approach.” Most recently, he’s praised him for having “Berkshire in (his) blood” and knowing the company’s operations “like the back of (his) hand.”