At age 93, Warren Buffett realizes he is “playing in extra innings,” according to a recent letter addressed from the Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) head to shareholders.
Much has been speculated about the future of Buffett’s business and philanthropic estates. The CEO, who is the world’s fifth richest man with an estimated net worth of $120.5 billion, detailed his plans in a rare message yesterday (Nov. 21) on Berkshire Hathaway’s website that shed light on the role his children will play after his passing and drew attention to a recent $870 million donation he made to four family foundations.
The gift saw 1.5 million Berkshire Hathaway B shares go to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, while the Sherwood Foundation, Howard G. Buffett Foundation and NoVo Foundation received 300,00 shares each. The first organization was named for Buffett’s late wife and focuses largely on issues related to reproductive health. The family’s other nonprofits support social justice initiatives, global conflict resolution and women’s rights and are respectively run by the investor’s children Susan, Howard and Peter.
“My children, along with their father, have a common belief that dynastic wealth, though both legal and common in much of the world including the United States, is not desirable,” said Buffett in his letter. The donation recalls a similar gift made ahead of Thanksgiving in 2022, when he gave the four organizations a total of $750 million.
Buffett, who has pledged to give the majority of his wealth to charity, has been a longtime supporter of his family’s philanthropic efforts. Since 2006, he has made annual summer donations to the aforementioned four organizations along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, founded in 2000 by Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates. His recent gift in June was his largest thus far at $4.6 billion and brought his lifetime philanthropic giving to more than $50 billion.
Warren Buffett on the future of Berkshire Hathaway
Buffett’s three children are the executors of his current will and the trustees of Buffett’s charitable foundation, which will receive more than 99 percent of his wealth upon his passing, the investor and philanthropist revealed in the message. “They were not fully prepared for this awesome responsibility in 2006, but they are now,” said Buffett of his offspring, who are between 65 and 70 years of age.
After his death, a simple will shall be available to view at the Douglas County Courthouse in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, according to the Berkshire Hathaway leader. “Because of the random nature of mortality, successors must always be designated,” added Buffett. Primarily funded by Berkshire Hathaway shares and operating with a lean staff, the charter of his philanthropic trust will be broad, as “wide trustees above ground are preferable to any strictures written by someone long gone.”
The “Oracle of Omaha” also reflected upon what will happen to his holding company when he’s gone. While acknowledging Berkshire Hathaway is not immune to occasional human errors, he reiterated his faith in the strengths of Greg Abel, the company’s vice chairman for non-insurance operations, who Buffett in 2021 tapped as his successor and the next CEO.
“Decay can occur at all types of large institutions, whether governmental, philanthropic or profit-seeking. But it is not inevitable,” said Buffett. “Berkshire’s advantage is that it has been built to last.”