Ajit Jain

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May 6, 2019: The Times of India

Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai, Shantanu Narayen ... Ajit Jain?

NEW DELHI: After Satya Nadella (at Microsoft), Sundar Pichai (Google), Shantanu Narayen (Adobe) is another globally renowned institution ready for another 'Made-in-India' chief then? Going by Warren Buffett's hints, there's every possibility. At a shareholders' meeting on Saturday, the Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO, without answering directly, said Ajit Jain (of Indian-origin) and Gregory Able — both promoted last year to the board of directors — would in the near future join him and long-time business partner Charlie Munger, 95, on the stage to answer shareholder questions (read successor).

The 88-year-old shied away from hinting at exactly who is the frontrunner and when they would take over. Instead, he said: "You could not have two better operating managers than Greg and Ajit. It's just fantastic what they've accomplished." Get this. For decades, Buffett and Munger have been the two stars of Berkshire Hathaway, but on Saturday, Jain and Abel even answered shareholder questions from the floor, at Buffett's urging.

An older cousin of Anshu Jain, the former Co-CEO of Deutsche Bank, the 67-year-old Ajit was born in Orissa. After graduating from IIT Kharagpur with a B.Tech in mechanical engineering, he worked for IBM as a salesman for their data-processing operations in India.

He then moved to the US in 1978, where he earned a Harvard MBA. And after a stint at McKinsey & Co, he was invited by Michael Goldberg (his boss at McKinsey) to work on insurance operations for Buffett. That was 1986. And in January 2018, Jain was named Hathaway's vice chairman of insurance operations and appointed to its board of directors.

Repeat: Abel or Jain then? Or will they jointly helm? "We have a different kind of unbureaucratic way of making decisions," said Munger. "But I don't want to be like everybody else because this has worked better. So I think you're going to have to endure us."

Buffett's departure is likely to open a new era at the company, especially with shares of Berkshire considered to be 10-15% above their real value thanks to the presence of the world's fourth-richest man (an $88.7 billion net worth) at the helm. Some analysts also said a Buffett-less Berkshire Hathaway could be a candidate for being broken up into multiple companies.

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