Aug 14, 2017

What happens when Warren Buffett dies? The answer’s not reassuring.

The control of Australia's insurance market wielded by Warren Buffett's General Re makes his continuing health a subject of real import for the Australian financial system, write Glenn Dyer and Bernard Keane.

It's not as if governments and financial regulators don't have plenty to worry about at the moment, but the health of an 86-year-old man in Omaha, Nebraska, should be high on the list, especially in Australia. The answer to the question "what happens when Warren Buffett dies" is 1. extremely important to our financial sector and 2. entirely unclear.

We aren’t being ghoulish. There is simply no other businessman anywhere in the world with the clout or influence of the longtime chair of Berkshire Hathaway which, depending on share prices, is the fifth largest company in America, with a value of around US$440 billion -- US$107 billion in cash, around US$134 billion in investments in listed companies. His ventures include: a major components maker for aircraft, America’s second largest railroad, home building, car dealership, candy making, furniture retailing, real estate brokers and agencies, clothing companies, food distribution, newspapers, and energy in the US midwest (his US energy companies are among the largest operators of renewables in the country) and UK. The company also owns 26% of Kraft Heinz.

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