BUSINESS
01/05/2011 02:43 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Warren Buffett's Replacements Narrowed To Four: Vanity Fair

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Four names top the list of potential candidates to succeed Warren Buffett as chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, though finding a replacement for him as Berkshire's investment chief has proved more complicated, Vanity Fair reported in its new issue.

The magazine scored 11 hours of interviews with Buffett for its new issue, which hits newsstands Thursday. Publisher Conde Nast released excerpts on Wednesday.

Buffett, 80, has run Berkshire Hathaway since the 1960s. When he dies -- he has said he has no plan to retire -- the company will split his job into a CEO role and a CIO position.

The magazine reported that CEO speculation centers on David Sokol, chairman of two Berkshire businesses, MidAmerican Energy Holdings and NetJets.

But in addition to Sokol, the magazine said there is talk about MidAmerican CEO Gregory Abel, Berkshire reinsurance chief Ajit Jain and Burlington Northern boss Matthew Rose as possible candidates.

Sokol and Jain are the names that have come up most frequently in recent years as Buffett successors, while Abel and Rose have drawn little attention.

Buffett also told the magazine he is looking at CIO candidates with a skeptical eye.

"Take all the people with a great track record (in investing) over the past five years. I wouldn't consider 95 percent of them," Vanity Fair quoted him as saying.

Late last October, Berkshire brought in little-known fund manager Todd Combs as an investment manager, though his portfolio -- at least initially -- is expected to be limited. Buffett told Vanity Fair that oft-mentioned fund manager Li Lu declined to join Berkshire, preferring to stay where he was. Lu has his own firm, LL Capital.

Buffett will address Combs' hiring in his annual investor letter in March, which Vanity Fair was allowed to see in advance.

"Our goal was a 2-year-old Secretariat, not a 10-year-old Seabiscuit," the magazine said he will write, referring to two legendary racehorses.

(Reporting by Ben Berkowitz; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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