Buffett's Berkshire paid 2 vice-chairmen $24m each last year

Berkshire Hathaway vice-chairmen Greg Abel (left) and Ajit Jain are considered the leading candidates to succeed Mr Warren Buffett as the conglomerate's chief executive.
Berkshire Hathaway vice-chairmen Greg Abel (left) and Ajit Jain are considered the leading candidates to succeed Mr Warren Buffett as the conglomerate's chief executive.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Market guru Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has said vice-chairmen Greg Abel and Ajit Jain were each paid about US$18 million (S$24 million) last year.

The figures are part of the first detailed look at the compensation of the men considered the leading candidates to succeed Mr Buffett as the conglomerate's chief executive.

Mr Abel, 56, and Mr Jain, 67, became vice-chairmen in January last year. They each received US$16 million in salary plus US$2 million in bonus, according to a United States Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Mr Buffett sets compensation for both.

The payouts show Mr Buffett's willingness to pay Berkshire's younger leaders in a manner similar to that at other publicly traded companies, although Berkshire does not grant stock options.

For more than a quarter of a century, Mr Buffett has taken a US$100,000 salary at Berkshire. But his 16.5 per cent ownership stake in the company forms the bulk of his net worth, estimated at US$84.4 billion by Forbes magazine.

Mr Abel oversees Berkshire's non-insurance operations such as the BNSF railroad, aircraft parts maker Precision Castparts, retail businesses such as Fruit of the Loom and Brooks running shoes, and Berkshire Hathaway Energy, where he remains executive chairman and owns 1 per cent of the voting stock.

Mr Jain, meanwhile, has long been Berkshire's top insurance executive, and oversees its businesses in that sector, including auto insurer Geico and reinsurer General Re.

Mr Buffett said in a CNBC interview last month that both men were "doing a fabulous job".

Mr Jain also controls about US$123 million of Berkshire stock, including shares owned by his wife and a private charity, while Mr Abel oversees about US$2 million, according to last Friday's filing.

Mr Buffett, 88, still oversees the bulk of Berkshire's common stock investments, including Apple and Wells Fargo. Also, Mr Buffett and Mr Charlie Munger, 95, another vice-chairman, handle major capital allocation decisions.

The filing said Mr Buffett's total compensation last year was US$388,968, including US$288,968 for personal and home security.

Mr Munger, also a billionaire, received a US$100,000 salary. Chief financial officer Marc Hamburg was awarded US$2.26 million.

Mr Buffett's compensation was about 6.63 times the US$58,691 median pay of Berkshire employees, based on a sample of about two-thirds of its roughly 389,000-person workforce.

The filing included no shareholder proposals to be voted on at Berkshire's May 4 annual meeting. Such proposals normally fail by large margins. Mr Buffett still has 31.4 per cent of Berkshire's voting power.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2019, with the headline 'Buffett's Berkshire paid 2 vice-chairmen $24m each last year'. Print Edition | Subscribe