July 11, 2006

Jain, Buffett Pupil, Boosts Berkshire Cash as Succession Looms

July 11 (Bloomberg) -- As Ajit Jain was departing McKinsey & Co. two decades ago, he told a colleague he'd be helping to oversee insurance at Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. He said he knew little about the business, yet was unconcerned.

Jain placed ads in industry publications, offering to take on risk from corporations and insurers for $1 million or more in annual premiums. The cash he has amassed -- $1.7 billion a year on average since 1998 -- has helped make Jain a leading candidate among investors to be Buffett's successor.

``He said, `I think I'll take out some full-page ads that say, we'll consider any risk, send us your proposals,''' says the colleague, John Parker, now a principal at the Chicago consulting firm Katzenbach Partners LLC. ``It was so Buffett. Buffett basically built Berkshire by saying, `Send us your deals,' and then just answering the phone.''

Today, Jain, 54, speaks daily to Buffett, 75, Berkshire's chairman and chief executive officer. Buffett, the world's second-richest man, fueled succession interest by pledging June 25 to donate Berkshire shares valued at about $37 billion, or 85 percent of his stake in the company, to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and four family charities over time.

He said in March the board had planned for the possibility he may become incapacitated, choosing a successor from among three ``reasonably young'' top Berkshire executives.

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