The following commentary is excerpted from the most recent annual letter to clients of Lountzis Asset Management. Following the text, we include additional insights provided to us by Paul Lountzis in an email dated April 20, 2014.
Paul J. Lountzis serves as President of Lountzis Asset Management, LLC, based in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. Paul founded Lountzis Asset Management in 2000. He has more than twenty-five years of experience in the investment industry, beginning his career with Royce & Associates, a New York City-based investment advisory firm managing the Royce Mutual Funds. Paul spent nine years, with the last five as a partner, at Ruane, Cunniff & Goldfarb, Inc., an investment advisory firm managing more than $9 billion, including the Sequoia Mutual Fund. While at Ruane, Cunniff & Goldfarb, Inc., Paul also evaluated several companies for Warren Buffett, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.
Berkshire Hathaway remains our firm’s largest holding and, while we have discussed the company in the past, several clients have asked the question, “What is the future of Berkshire Hathaway should Mr. Buffett no longer be the CEO?” In response, we would like to share our thoughts on this unique enterprise and the irreplaceable and extraordinary Warren Buffett who created and continues to guide the firm.
In Mr. Buffett there is embedded a broad and deep multi-dimensional set of skills that are simply not found in any other single individual.
As many of our clients may know, I have followed Mr. Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway for over four decades, though with more insight over the past three decades. It has been an enormous privilege and pleasure watching him and Berkshire Hathaway evolve and grow in so many ways through the years. Today, Berkshire Hathaway represents the largest holding in our client portfolios, and we have never sold a share. As such a large holder on behalf of our clients, I have tried to think deeply about Berkshire Hathaway both in its current structure, but even more importantly, to when Mr. Buffett is no longer the CEO, for whatever reason. I have tried to summarize some of my key thoughts below without going into great detail, as to some of my concerns regarding Berkshire Hathaway without Mr. Buffett. Despite these concerns which I discuss, I strongly believe Berkshire Hathaway is well positioned overall for a future without him.
While I hope Mr. Buffett finds the Methuselah gene, which he has often referred to as it would provide him another 885.5 years to live, and, if I find it, I will split the years with him equally extending each of our lives for 484.5 years. Based upon actuarial tables he will likely live into his early to mid-90’s. I certainly hope it is even longer. I also believe a greater risk to Berkshire Hathaway than Mr. Buffett’s absence, would be a deterioration of his capabilities, rather than his passing. However, he has given the Board approval to “take away the keys” if he begins to lose his mental sharpness.
In Mr. Buffett there is embedded a broad and deep multi-dimensional set of skills that are simply not found in any other single individual. As the founder, builder and controlling shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway, his values and vision have been deeply integrated throughout the organization. Furthermore, his unique, set of multi-dimensional skills, along with his history with the firm, provide him with an unparalleled capability to evaluate and assess the many subsidiaries, management teams and acquisitions. There are some deals, from the purchase of entire companies, as well as one-off deals such as during the financial crisis, that come to Berkshire Hathaway exclusively because of Mr. Buffett’s integrity, track record, reputation and so on, that will be irreplaceable.
Berkshire Hathaway remains an extraordinary company, with a Rock of Gibraltar balance sheet, a collection of many world class businesses, stable and growing cash flows from diverse sources, and an outstanding team of managers leading many of its businesses. However, when Mr. Buffett (who is irreplaceable) is no longer the CEO, what will that mean for the future of Berkshire Hathaway?
Members, log in below to access the restricted content.
Not a member?
Thank you for your interest. Please note that MOI Global is closed to new members at this time. If you would like to join the waiting list, complete the following form: