Buffett Lieutenant Named to Head Berkshire’s Geico Unit

Todd Combs is to become chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway’s car insurer Geico on January 1st, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.

“The move marks a major responsibility shift for 48-year old Mr. Combs,” the article says, adding that CEO Warren Buffett runs most of Berkshire’s investments with help from Combs (who currently oversees about $14 billion of the firm’s investment portfolio) and another portfolio manager.

Combs will take over the position from Bill Roberts, a 35-year Geico employee who will become Geico’s vice chairman at the start of the new year and retire from the company in December 2020.

A former hedge fund manager, Combs was hired by Berkshire in 2010 to assist Buffett manage the company’s massive investment portfolio. Since then, he has become one of Buffett’s key deputies alongside Ted Wechsler, Greg Abel and Ajit Jain. The article reports that Messrs. Combs and Weschler “are expected to take over all of Berkshire’s investments once Mr. Buffett is no longer in the top job. Either Mr. Abel or Mr. Jain is expected to succeed Mr. Buffett as CEO.”

“Mr. Combs has a history in insurance,” the article says, adding, “He worked at Progressive Corp., a Geico competitor, early in his career. He graduated from Florida State University and Columbia Business School. Mr. Combs also sits on JPMorgan’s board.”

Greggory Warren, senior stock analyst at Morningstar, said the announcement shows that Berkshire is entrusting Combs to “run what is Buffett’s baby, really. His first love was Geico, so he’s trusting Todd to take the helm and run with it.”