Jayeff B's Santulli In Elite Company at Berkshire Hathaway

Jayeff B Stable principal Richard Santulli is reportedly on the short list of Berkshire Hathaway executives who could become the company's chief executive officer should anything ever happen to company founder Warren Buffett. According to the Wall Street Journal, Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway is a conglomerate that includes 50 companies, with a market value in excess of $80.4 billion.

The Journal reported Buffett, consistently one of the wealthiest people in the U.S., has no plans to step down. However, the 70-year-old executive has drafted a succession that consists of a chairman, a director of investments, and a CEO. The chairman will be Buffet's son, Howard Buffet, and the investments will be handled by Louis A. Simpson, who currently handles that part of Berkshire Hathaway's operations.

The only question mark, then, is who will fill the CEO post, with the answer contained in an envelope to be opened upon Buffet's death. Buffett told the Journal that his succession plan According to the Journal, Berkshire Hathaway's next CEO will likely be either Santulli, Ajit Jain, or Tony Nicely. Jain handles the company's reinsurance business that accounts for less than $2 billion of Berkshire Hathaway's $24 billion annual revenues. Nicely is also involved in the insurance arm of the company, as CEO of Geico Insurance, which Buffet acquired in 1995.

Santulli, 56, founded Executive Jet Inc., a company acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 1998. Santulli still runs the company that had a revenue increase of 46% last year and which buys 8% of jets manufactured world-wide, according to the Journal.

"Santulli features a quality that the other two candidates -- as well as Mr. Buffett -- lack. He's glamorous," the Journal reported. "When he speaks of Mr. Santulli -- a sharp dresser who races horses -- Mr. Buffett sounds almost infatuated. 'Rich is dynamite, he is fun, and he never stops, Mr. Buffett says." The Journal noted that Santulli's strengths are being a "skilled mathematician and student of insurance." One stock analyst told the business journal that Santulli "is one of the few non-insurance guys who understands insurance."

For his part, Santulli is humble in discussing the possibility of succeeding Buffett as CEO. "I am not presumptuous enough to think I am capable of doing it," the Journal quoted Santulli. But "if Warren asked me to do anything, I would do it."

The Journal noted one reason he is keeping the envelope with the CEO's name sealed is to allow him the opportunity to change his mind.

Santulli is the more active partner in Jayeff B, which also consists of George Prussin. According to a New York Times article in late 1999, Jayeff B's equine assets totaled about $60 million. Included among the horses in the portfolio is Korveya, a Riverman mare for which Jayeff B paid $7-million at the 1998 Keeneland November sale in buying out partner Gerald Leigh.