Could Matthew K. Rose now be on the short list of candidates to possibly succeed Warren Buffett as the operations head of Berkshire Hathaway? Let the speculation begin.
Rose, 49, has been chairman, president and CEO of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., which Berkshire plans to acquire, since March 2002.
Buffett has repeatedly praised the job Rose has done at BNSF. Rose's experience running a huge corporation and his relative youth would seem to put him on a short list of possible Buffett successors, a list that most agree is headed by David Sokol.
I asked Robert Miles for his perspective on this matter. Miles is the author of "The Warren Buffett CEO," an excellent book that profiles numerous operating heads of Berkshire subsidiaries and discusses the question of succession. Here is his e-mailed response to my question:
"Matt Rose fits the profile of a successor to Warren Buffett. He is the perfect age, managing what will be the largest earnings producer of the Berkshire family of companies. He is proven and a long time employee of BNSF. That said, Matt Rose qualifies and may be added to the potential pool of candidates. I still believe David Sokol is the more likely CEO of operations."
Rose was asked about the possibility of succeeding Buffett during an interview this week on PBS's Nightly Business Report, and predictably he didn't address it. Here is that part of the interview with NBR's Susie Gharib:
GHARIB: There is always a lot of talk about Berkshire Hathaway and who is going to succeed after Warren Buffett is no longer running the company. You're the right age. Did you and Warren Buffett have any conversation about succession?
ROSE: No. I'm focused on BNSF.
GHARIB: Would you be interested in running Berkshire Hathaway if Warren Buffett asked you?
ROSE: Did I mention I'm focused on BNSF?
GHARIB: OK, we'll leave it there. Congratulations on the deal. Thank you so much.
Obviously it's way too early to make any predictions about Rose's future with Berkshire. But at the very least he would seem to meet Buffett's criteria for the next operations CEO: a young, experienced manager from within the organization who is familiar with the Berkshire culture.
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