DealBook Briefing: Buffett Succession Plan Gets Clearer

Good Wednesday morning. Warren Buffett has given two potential successors new high-profile titles at Berkshire Hathaway. Chinese government officials reportedly view Treasury bonds as less attractive. And how will President Trump tout “America first” at the World Economic Forum?

In naming Greg Abel and Ajit Jain as vice chairmen, the Oracle of Omaha may be further signaling that one of them is likely to succeed him as C.E.O. someday. (Both were also named to the board.)

Who are they?

• Mr. Abel is the chairman of Berkshire’s energy unit, which earned $2.3 billion in 2016. He’ll be vice chairman for non-insurance businesses.

• Mr. Jain is the longtime head of Berkshire’s vast reinsurance operations. He will become vice chairman for insurance operations.

Is Mr. Buffett going anytime soon? Probably not. In the news release announcing the appointments, Mr. Buffett and his longtime partner Charlie Munger said that they would remain responsible for big investment decisions.

The context: Mr. Buffett has already said that his responsibilities would be split into three once he departs. His son Howard will be chairman. The investors Todd Combs and Ted Weschler will be the chief stock pickers. The big question has been who would take over as C.E.O.

Stay tuned: Mr. Buffett will appear on CNBC at 8 a.m. E.T.


Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin (@andrewrsorkin) in New York, and Michael J. de la Merced (@m_delamerced) and Amie Tsang (@amietsang) in London.


From Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources:

Futures in major indexes, including the S. & P. 500 and the Dow Jones industrial average, were down in premarket trading.

Here’s what the president plans to do at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, according to the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

Other heads of state have promoted a very different message — including Xi Jinping of China, who defended globalism there last year. As the WSJ editorial board put it, “Davos In, Bannon Out.” (More on the latter later.)

The context: Only one president, Bill Clinton, has attended the forum in person. (Ronald Reagan spoke via videoconference.) And even some White House advisers suggest that visiting a gathering of world leaders, C.E.O.s, billionaires and celebrities appears to run counter to Mr. Trump’s populist agenda.

A tip for newbie Davos-goers: Plan on walking — traffic is bad even without a presidential motorcade to snarl it up.

The globalization flyaround

• Emmanuel Macron visited China with a gift horse and a defense of global trade. (NYT)

• British political leaders have made a direct appeal to the German business community to help forge a sympathetic Brexit deal. (Guardian)

• The European Union is advising companies to prepare for Britain to become a “third country” with no automatic right to operate in the single market. (FT)

• Toyota and Mazda plan to build a $1.6 billion plant in northern Alabama. (NYT)

Exhibit A: Mr. Trump appeared ready to support a deal that would eventually give millions of undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.

Exhibit B: A federal judge ruled that the federal program known as DACA, which shields some young immigrants, must be maintained, despite the administration’s decision to end it.

The context: Executives like Tim Cook of Apple and Brad Smith of Microsoft have spoken out extensively in support of the young immigrants.

The Washington flyaround

• Read the transcript of the Congressional testimony of Glenn Simpson, the founder of the research firm Fusion GPS, as part of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. (NYT)

• Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime lawyer, has sued BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS over the claims in the Steele dossier, which was commissioned by Fusion GPS and published by BuzzFeed, that he was a central figure in a Russian conspiracy. (NYT)

With Steve Bannon gone from Breitbart for disparaging the president and Donald Trump Jr., what influence will the media company have at the White House? Mr. Trump appears unlikely to turn away from the populist stances on trade and parts of immigration policy that Breitbart and Mr. Bannon have championed.

The Mercer angle

Rebekah Mercer, Mr. Bannon’s estranged patron and one of Breitbart’s owners, pledged support to Mr. Trump after controversy erupted over the adviser’s comments, the WSJ reports.

More on Ms. Mercer’s role in Mr. Bannon’s departure from Jeremy Peters of the NYT:

What’s next for Bannon?

He is reportedly building a new political advocacy group, but it’s not apparent who would want to back him. (He’s also lost his radio show on Sirius XM.)

• Activist funds invested $62 billion in campaigns around the world, more than twice the 2016 figure, Lazard’s year-end review found. (Lazard)

• The internet performance company Akamai Technologies is working with Morgan Stanley to explore “strategic alternatives,” including a potential sale, amid pressure from Elliott Management, according to unnamed sources. (Bloomberg)

The official answer: The KodakCoin it has unveiled with WENN Digital will “allow photographers and agencies to take greater control in image rights management.”

The cynical answer: Kodak’s surged 34 percent after it announced a “major blockchain initiative.”

Critic’s corner: Tom Buerkle of Breakingviews writes: “A blockchain platform could give photographers a better way to license their images and receive payment. But it’s hard to see how that will reverse Kodak’s decades-long decline.”

The digital money flyaround

• China is moving to eradicate Bitcoin mining over concerns about electricity consumption and financial risk. (FT)

• The value of the virtual currency Ripple has continued to fall, as much as 24 percent over the last day. (Bloomberg)

• About three-quarters of women in jobs related to programming they’ve experienced discrimination in the workplace, the Pew Research Center reports. Among men, it was 16 percent. (Recode)

• Rose McGowan will star in a documentary series, “Citizen Rose,” that started filming a month before the NYT disclosed her settlement agreement with Harvey Weinstein. (NYT)

• The host of “Face the Nation,” John Dickerson, will replace Charlie Rose on “CBS This Morning.” (NYT)

• The actress Catherine Deneuve joined more than 100 Frenchwomen in entertainment, publishing and academia in arguing that movements like #MeToo and the French #Balancetonporc have gone too far. (NYT)

• Bridgewater Associates has hired Vanessa Selbst, the most successful woman in the professional poker world, in an unspecified role, according to Bloomberg.

• Warner Bros. has named Toby Emmerich as the head of its worldwide film production, distribution and marketing operations, ending a power struggle between him and Sue Kroll.

— Jeff Gundlach, the founder of the money management firm DoubleLine Capital, on why he thinks the S. & P. 500 will have a negative return this year.

• Twitter missed a Monday deadline to respond to written questions about Russian election interference from the Senate Intelligence Committee. (Axios)

• LionTree, the bank focused on tech, media and telecoms, has formed a funding partnership with Searchlight Capital Partners. (Businesswire)

• American International Group had talks to buy Voya Financial for more than $10 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. The negotiations fell apart in November, but were a sign of the insurer’s interest in big deals. (Bloomberg)

• Peloton’s $4,000 treadmill suggests a future for gadget businesses: It’s all about service. (NYT)

• Electric companies in states like Massachusetts and Illinois say they will pass their tax cuts to customers through lower rates. Other utilities might follow. (NYT)

• The toymaker VTech agreed to pay $650,000 to settle charges that it had collected digital data on children without parents’ permission and then failed to keep it secure, the Federal Trade Commission said on Monday. (NYT)

• Ever more experts, including some Federal Reserve officials, agree the Fed needs a new approach to managing the economy differently — but not on which new approach. (NYT)

• Speaking at CES on Tuesday, Huawei’s consumer products chief called AT&T’s decision not to sell its phones in the U.S. a “loss for consumers.” (The Verge)

• Norway’s sovereign wealth fund wants to be allowed to invest in unlisted companies because technology groups are holding off going public. (FT)

• Rupert Murdoch is finalizing the purchase of about 10 television stations from Sinclair Broadcast Group, which will bolster Fox’s portfolio of channels, according to three people familiar with the matter. (FT)

• Uber agreed to pay up to $3 million to settle a proposed class-action lawsuit that accused it of docking excessive fees from New York drivers’ fares. (Reuters)

Want this in your own email inbox? Here’s the sign-up.

You can find live updates throughout the day at

We’d love your feedback as we experiment with the writing, format and design of this briefing. Please email thoughts and suggestions to