There is a job change coming for an executive whom investors say could become the next Warren Buffett.
David Sokol, widely considered among the top candidates to eventually replace Buffett as chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N: Quote, Profile, Research) (BRKb.N: Quote, Profile, Research), announced on Tuesday that he plans to step down as chief of Berkshire's utility unit MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. He will remain chairman.
Many investors consider Sokol and Ajit Jain, a top Berkshire insurance executive, candidates to eventually succeed the 77-year-old Buffett, whose $62 billion net worth according to Forbes magazine makes him the world's richest person.
Buffett has said Berkshire has three internal candidates, including one who could step in immediately, and would like any successor to be young enough to stay on for 15 years. Buffett's son Howard would likely become chairman. Four other candidates are in the running to become chief investment officer.
"It's still too early to know," said Thomas Russo, who helps invest $3 billion at Gardner, Russo & Gardner in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, including in Berkshire stock. "This is the first move affecting (someone on) the well-considered list of successors who is changing his day job."
Berkshire spokeswoman Jackie Wilson declined to comment. Jain was testifying at a Congressional hearing in Washington and was not immediately available for comment.
Sokol was not immediately available for comment. He told the Omaha World-Herald that ending his 17-year run as MidAmerican chief executive will free him to work on acquisitions. MidAmerican operates several utilities and natural gas pipeline companies, and runs HomeServices of America, the No. 2 independent U.S. real estate brokerage.