Buffett defends how he runs Berkshire Hathaway

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 5, 2014 at 2:48 pm •  Published: May 5, 2014
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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Warren Buffett remains confident in the long-term future of his company, and on Monday he again defended the quiet way he handled his objections to Coca-Cola's compensation plan.

Buffett appeared on CNBC and Fox Business Network after spending the weekend meeting with shareholders of his Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate.

Critics who think it would be best to break apart Berkshire's 80-odd subsidiaries to make them easier to manage are wrong, he said.

"There are real advantages to having the company together," he said.

Over the past 50 years, Buffett has grown Berkshire Hathaway from a floundering New England textile mill into a wide-ranging conglomerate that employs more than 330,000 people.

One of Berkshire's key advantages is its ability to shift money between its subsidiaries or invest it elsewhere to generate the best returns, Buffett said.

He is regarded as one of the best at deciding where capital should be used, and Buffett said Berkshire's board won't pick a CEO that isn't terrific at allocating capital.

The 83-year-old Buffett says he doesn't intend to retire, but Berkshire is nonetheless planning for the day when he's no longer at the helm. The company plans to split his job into three parts — chief executive officer, chairman and several investment managers.

Buffett said again Monday that all of the current CEO candidates are men who already work at Berkshire and understand the company's culture. Buffett said his successor will do some things differently, but won't change Berkshire's key principles.

"We're a certain type of business," Buffett said. "That's not the only way to run things, but it is the way we run things at Berkshire. And I can't imagine a successor changing that in a material way."

As the biggest shareholder in Coca-Cola Co., Berkshire had the opportunity to have a major influence on last month's vote on an executive compensation plan that Buffett called excessive.

But Buffett abstained from voting Berkshire's 400 million Coca-Cola shares on the compensation plan because he didn't want to fight with the company. Then he met with Coca-Cola's CEO to express his concerns.

"I'm sure we have the right leader in Muhtar Kent so we have no desire to go to war," Buffett said. "But we did think the program was excessive."

Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn criticized Buffett's decision not to vote against Coke's compensation plan in a separate interview on CNBC Monday and in an opinion article in Barron's.

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