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Union investors seeking details of Buffett succession plan

OMAHA — A group of Berkshire Hathaway investors from the AFL-CIO want to require the company to reveal Warren Buffett’s successor.

The labor union’s AFL-CIO Reserve Fund submitted a proposal that Berkshire shareholders will vote on at the annual meeting in May.

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The union seeks a written succession plan that includes criteria for the next chief executive and the identities of promising internal candidates.

The proposal would address something many shareholders have worried about for years, because so much of the company’s success is attributed to the 81- year-old Buffett.

A union spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a phone message on Wednesday.

Berkshire’s board opposes the proposal unanimously, and together that group controls 38 percent of voting rights. Buffett controls about 34 percent.

Berkshire’s board said it has a detailed plan for replacing Buffett, but does not see any benefit to publishing it.

Berkshire’s shareholder base has changed in recent years because the company issued 21 million Class B shares and split that stock 50-for-1 in 2010 as part of its acquisition of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad.

Buffett has said Berkshire plans to split his job into three parts with a CEO, a chairman, and several investment managers, but he has never identified the CEO candidates.

Last month, Buffett sought to reassure shareholders, telling them the board had chosen someone to replace him as CEO and identified two good backup candidates.

Buffett has said he believes his son Howard, who serves on Berkshire’s board, would make an ideal chairman.

And Berkshire has hired two hedge fund managers, Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, over the past two years who Buffett says are capable of running the company’s entire portfolio.

Buffett has said he remains in good health and has no plans to retire because he enjoys running the conglomerate he built.

Berkshire owns more than 80 companies, including clothing, furniture, brick, and jewelry companies, but its insurance, railroad, and utility businesses typically account for more than half of the company’s net income.

It also has major investments in such companies as American Express Co., International Business Machines Corp., Washington Post Co., and Wells Fargo & Co.

Berkshire Hathaway’s Class B shares slipped 5 cents to close Wednesday at $80.71.

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