Warren Buffett makes big donation before Thanksgiving, says Berkshire is built to last

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, smiles as he plays bridge following the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, May 5, 2019.

Nati Harnik | AP

Warren Buffett donated more than $870 million in Berkshire Hathaway stock to four family foundations before Thanksgiving, assuring investors in a letter that the conglomerate is “built to last.”

The 93-year-old legendary investor donated 1.5 million Class B shares of his conglomerate to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named for his first wife. He also gave 300,000 Class B shares to each of the three foundations run by his children: the Sherwood Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the NoVo Foundation.

“They supplement certain of the lifetime pledges I made in 2006 and that continue until my death (at 93, I feel good but fully realize I am playing in extra innings),” Buffett said in a statement.

He made similar donations on Thanksgiving eve last year. The “Oracle of Omaha” pledged to give away the fortune he built at Berkshire, the Omaha-based conglomerate he started running since 1965. Buffett has been making annual donations to the same four charities since 2006.

Berkshire owns a vast array of well-established businesses, ranging from its crown-jewel Geico insurance to BNSF Railway to about 6% of Apple.

Shares of the conglomerate have gained nearly 17% this year after hitting an all-time high in September.

Berkshire is built to last

In his letter, the longtime investing icon affirmed to Berkshire shareholders that the empire he has cultivated over the past six decades will stand the test of time, even without his oversight.

“In the short-term, Berkshire’s distinctive characteristics and behavior will be supported by my large Berkshire holdings. Before long, however, Berkshire will earn whatever reputation it then deserves,” Buffett said. “Decay can occur at all types of large institutions, whether governmental, philanthropic or profit-seeking. But it is not inevitable. Berkshire’s advantage is that it has been built to last.”

Greg Abel, vice chairman for non-insurance operations at Berkshire, has been named Buffett’s successor. Buffett has sung Abel’s praises, noting that he’s taken on most of the responsibilities.

Buffett’s three children are the executors of his will and the named trustees of the charitable trust that will receive nearly all of Buffett’s wealth.

“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,” Buffett said. “Moreover, we have had many opportunities to observe that being rich does not make you either wise or evil.”

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