Warren Buffett became the controlling shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway in the mid-1960s and began a progressive strategy of diverting cash flows from the core business into other investments. As of May 2023, Berkshire Hathaway had a market capitalization of over $715 billion, making it one of the largest publicly traded companies worldwide.1
Berkshire Hathaway has a long history of operating success and smart investments. The company is the sixth-largest public company in the world in terms of market capitalization as of May 2023.1 Berkshire's stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange in two classes—A shares and B shares. Class A shares have never split and closed above $500,00 per share in May of 2023 (its Class B shares traded at a more modest $325 on the same date).2
Insurance subsidiaries represent a large part of Berkshire Hathaway's holdings. However, the company also manages hundreds of diverse businesses all over the world. These include Duracell, International Dairy Queen, Pampered Chef, Fruit of the Loom, NetJets, and GEICO, among others.3 In addition to owning private companies, Berkshire also has a large investment portfolio of stocks in major public companies, such as Apple (AAPL), Bank of America (BAC), and United Parcel Service (UPS).4 As of December 31, 2022, Berkshire's public market equity portfolio was valued at more than $346 billion.5
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Early in his career, Buffett came across the novel idea to use the float from his insurance subsidiaries to invest elsewhere. He focused on selecting stocks that would be held for the long term. Buffett has long eschewed a diversified stock portfolio in favor of trusted investments that would be over-weighted in order to leverage the anticipated return. Over time, Buffett’s investing prowess became so renowned that Berkshire Hathaway's annual shareholder meetings are now a mecca for value investing proponents. They're also the target of intense media scrutiny.
The overall return of Berkshire Hathaway’s stock from 1965 to 2021. During this same period, the S&P 500 returned 30,209%.6 In annualized terms, Berkshire’s stock generated an average yearly return of 20.1% over that period, while the S&P 500’s annualized gain was 10.5%.6
Succession and Control
Succession has always been a hot topic for Berkshire. The big question is whether Buffett’s replacement can continue the streak of outperforming the market. This becomes even more pressing when you consider that Buffett turned 91 years old in August of 2021.
In 2010, Buffett announced that he would be succeeded at Berkshire Hathaway by a team comprised of one CEO and two to four investment managers.
In 2011, it was announced that hedge fund managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler would be two of those managers. In 2018, the company put Ajit Jain in charge of all of the insurance operations and made Greg Abel the manager of all other (noninsurance) operations. Both men seemed likely candidates for Buffett's heir apparent. Buffet has not announced any retirement plans. Still, it's good that the question of succession has been answered, considering the advanced age of the Oracle of Omaha.
On May 1, 2021, vice chair of Berkshire Hathaway, Charlie Munger, unofficially announced that Warren Buffett would be succeeded as CEO by Greg Abel when Buffett eventually steps down. Abel's official title is CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Energy and vice chair in charge of noninsurance operations.
Who Is Warren Buffett?
Warren Buffett is a world famous business owner and investor. He's renowned not only for the jaw-dropping success of Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company of which he's been in charge since 1964. Buffett is also celebrated for his winning approach to investing, which has created great wealth for many shareholders. His frugal lifestyle, despite being one of the world's wealthiest individuals, and his easy-going manner have earned him fans across the globe.
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What Is Value Investing?
Value investing refers to investing in a security with an intrinsic value that's greater than its market value. The idea is that the undervalued security's market value should increase to meet its intrinsic value. Warren Buffett is one example of an investor whose focus on value investing has led to incredible success.
What Is a Class A Share?
Class A shares of common stock usually give shareholders a greater amount of voting rights than Class B and other classes of stock. They're often held by a company's executives and some members of management so that those in charge of the company can retain control of it in various situations, such as a hostile takeover attempt.
The Bottom Line
Berkshire Hathaway is a holding company run by Warren Buffett that owns a diverse range of private businesses and significant minority interests in public companies such as Apple. It has a market capitalization of over $715 billion and is the sixth-largest public company in the world. Berkshire Hathaway's success is l