David Sokol is a lot more fiery and controversial than the grandfatherly figure he reportedly might take over for.Last week Sokol was named one of two potential Warren Buffett successors. The other is Li Liu, a hedge fund manager who impressed Buffett with an awesome call on BYD.
Sokol, who is more trained in business management than Liu, impressed Buffett by turning around NetJets. For that story, head over to Fortune, because since Warren Buffett is as famous for his investing as he is for his personality, we’re going to focus on Sokol’s personality.
Here are the key characteristics we picked up in the Fortune profile:
- He wakes up at 5 am, runs 5 miles and lifts weights 5 days a week
- He wanted to be a doctor, but the first time he saw a cadaver he fainted and hit his head on the edge of a marble table
- He trusts his gut: “Your gut instincts are extremely important to listen to, particularly when they are telling you not to do something.”
- He grew up in Omaha, on what he calls “the wrong side of town.”
- He never likes to be late for a meeting — he believes it shows disrespect.
- He likes to fish and ski.
But for the real picture, look at how he responds to criticism:
In response to NetJets’ former CEO’s, Jim Jacobs, criticism that the staff cuts he made have turned NetJets into “a tiny shadow of what it was.”
Sokol snaps back: “Ludicrous. In all the acquisitions and business turnarounds I’ve done, I’ve never seen senior people leave a company who then go out and try to spread rumours and call customers and try to be harmful to the business. It’s a horrible thing to see, because the only people they are hurting are themselves and the employees of the company.”
In response to criticism from Bill Olsen, who at the time was running NetJets Aviation, and who said, “It was no secret that David was not open to suggestions, critical debate, or constructive criticism. Once you challenged him in a meeting, he’d give you a look to kill and you’d fall very fast out of his favour.”
Sokol responds: “That’s just not true. My management style is collaborative.”
Now learn about the other potential Buffett successor, Li Lu >>
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