Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, had high praise for his colleague Ajit Jain, who handles Berkshire’s insurance operations, in his latest letter to shareholders.
“Ajit has created tens of billions of value for Berkshire shareholders,” Buffett wrote. “If there were ever to be another Ajit and you could swap me for him, don’t hesitate.”
Buffett’s admiration for Jain’s business acumen is nothing new.
In his 2014 shareholder letter, Buffett spent some time discussing Jain’s business acumen.
“From a standing start in 1985, Ajit has created an insurance business with float of $US37 billion and a large cumulative underwriting profit, a feat no other insurance CEO has come close to matching,” he said then.
In the same letter, Buffett wrote Jain, and Greg Abel, CEO of Berkshire’s energy division, are better business executives than him in some ways. “Ajit Jain and Greg Abel are proven performers who would probably be under-described as ‘world-class.’,” he wrote. “In some important ways, each is a better business executive than Buffett.”
Whitney Tilson, founder of hedge fund Kase Capital, speculated that Buffett’s praise for Jain in his most recent letter could be reason to believe Jain would be Buffett’s likely successor at Berkshire.
“Buffett almost always sings Ajit Jain’s praises (rightly so!),” Tilson wrote. “But this year he was particularly effusive — perhaps the best indicator yet that Ajit is his successor?”
Jain — whose mind Buffett considers an “idea factory,” always looking for new ideas — has for some time now been considered a leading candidate to become Berskhire’s next chairman, although Buffett in 2015 said Jain “is not looking to take my job.”
Jain, who hails from Orissa, India, met Buffett in 1985. Buffett later said “a hugely important event in Berkshire’s history occurred on a Saturday in 1985. Ajit Jain came into our office in Omaha — and I immediately knew we had found a superstar.”
Jain graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology in 1971 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He moved to the US in the late 1970s to earn a MBA from Harvard Business School after he lost his job as a salesperson at IBM, which was closing its India operations.
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