What Is Berkshire Hathaway?

Berkshire Hathaway is a holding company for a multitude of businesses, including GEICO and Fruit of the Loom. It's run by chairman and CEO Warren Buffett. Berkshire Hathaway is headquartered in Omaha, Neb., and was originally a company comprised of a group of textile milling plants.

Key Takeaways

  • Berkshire Hathaway is a massive holding company, still run by famed investor Warren Buffett.
  • It owns a variety of well-known private businesses, such as GEICO, and also has minority interests in public companies, such as Apple.
  • Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett, at 90 years old, has yet to name a successor, as of September 2020.聽
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How Warren Buffett Made Berkshire A Winner

Understanding Berkshire Hathaway

Buffett became the controlling shareholder of the company in the mid-1960s and began a progressive strategy of diverting cash flows from the core business into other investments. As of Sept. 18, 2020, Berkshire Hathaway had a market capitalization of $521.57 billion, making it one of the largest publicly traded companies worldwide.

Because of Berkshire Hathaway's long history of operating success and keen investments, the company has grown into the ninth-largest public company in the world in terms of market capitalization (as of June 2020).锘 Berkshire鈥檚 stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange as two classes鈥擜 shares and B shares. Class A shares trade for $327,601 per share as of Sept. 18, 2020.

2,744,062%

Overall return of Berkshire Hathaway鈥檚 stock from 1965 to 2019; during this same period, the S&P 500 returned just 19,784%.

Insurance subsidiaries tend to represent the largest pieces of Berkshire Hathaway, but the company also manages hundreds of diverse businesses all over the world, including Dairy Queen, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Pampered Chef, Fruit of the Loom, NetJets, and GEICO, among others.锘 In addition to owning private companies, Berkshire also has a large investment portfolio of stocks in major public companies, such as Apple (AAPL), Bank of America (BAC), and Wells Fargo (WFC).锘 As of June 30, 2020, Berkshire鈥檚 public market equity portfolio was valued at $207.45 billion.

Early in his career, Buffett came across the novel idea to use the "float" from his insurance subsidiaries to invest elsewhere鈥攎ainly into focused stock picks that would be held for the long term. Buffett has long eschewed a diversified stock portfolio in favor of a handful of trusted investments that would be over-weighted in order to leverage the anticipated return. Over time, Buffett鈥檚 investing prowess became so noted that Berkshire's annual shareholder meetings are now a mecca for value investing proponents and the focus of intense media scrutiny.

Berkshire Hathaway is one of the largest public companies in the world, still managed by famed investor Warren Buffett.

Special Considerations

From 1965 to 2019, the annual performance of Berkshire Hathaway鈥檚 stock was more than twice that of the S&P 500 index. Berkshire鈥檚 stock generated an annualized 20.3% over that period, while the S&P 500鈥檚 annualized gain was 10%.

Succession has always been a hot topic for Berkshire, with the big question being: Can Buffett鈥檚 replacement continue the streak of market out-performance? The question becomes even more pressing when considering that Buffett turned 90 years old in August of 2020.

In 2010, that he would be succeeded at Berkshire Hathaway by a team鈥攃omprised of one CEO and two to four investment managers. In 2011, it was announced that hedge fund managers would be two of those managers. Buffett has yet to name his CEO replacement. Still, Buffett does appear to be grooming the company for success after his departure. , the company put Ajit Jain in charge of all of the insurance operations and made Greg Abel the manager of all other operations.聽