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The Man Who May Fill Warren Buffett's Shoes

By    |   Thursday, 28 Oct 2010 10:06 AM

Meet Warren Buffett’s new successor …

His name is Todd Combs, chief executive and portfolio manager at Castle Point Capital Management LLC. His name was largely unknown until the news broke several days ago.

In a news release issued by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, it was announced that Combs was going to become an investment officer at the company. The statement said that he would manage a “significant portion” of the company’s multibillion dollar investment portfolio.

One important thing to note is that Buffett has two main roles at Berkshire Hathaway. He is CEO and in charge of overseeing dozens of businesses the company owns. In addition, he is CIO (chief investment officer) and oversees the $50 billion in stock that Berkshire Hathaway runs.

Combs will likely take over as only the CIO and not the CEO. There is much speculation that David Sokol, who currently runs NetJets and which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, will eventually take that position.

Back to the CIO, Charlie Munger (vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway) announced that the job of CIO would be split among three people. So far the two other people were offered the job but declined. So for now, Combs is the only one who has officially accepted the new role.

Combs attended Florida University for undergraduate studies and Columbia University for his MBA. Buffett is a big fan of Columbia’s MBA program. It has arguably the best value-investing program in the world. Buffett attended class there, where he learned about value investing from his mentor Benjamin Graham.

Combs later worked as a Florida bank regulator and also in the pricing department of Progressive Insurance. In 2005, he started Castle Point Capital, which is a hedge fund that focuses on financials, and takes both short and long positions in stocks. This is important to Buffett since approximately 50 percent of Berkshire Hathaway’s revenue comes from financial companies.

Combs has a short track record, but a good one, in his career.

Through June this year, his fund has risen 28 percent from its November 2005 inception, against a 49 percent drop in his benchmark, the SPDR Financial Services sector fund. His fund dropped by only a few points when the market collapsed in early 2005.

So far, Berkshire Hathaway investors are skeptical of Combs. The stock is down several percentage points since the announcement earlier this week. This movement is unusual for a stock like Berkshire

Hathaway, since the company’s investors pride themselves on being long-term partners with the company. The decrease in the share price is likely due to skepticism with Combs. Only time will tell whether this skepticism was warranted.

(Disclosure: The author doesn’t own Berkshire Hathaway stock.)

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Meet Warren Buffett s new successor … His name is Todd Combs, chief executive and portfolio manager at Castle Point Capital Management LLC. His name was largely unknown until the news broke several days ago. In a news release issued by Warren Buffett s Berkshire...
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2010-06-28
Thursday, 28 Oct 2010 10:06 AM
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