Ford begins search for post-Mulally CEO: source

DETROIT ― Ford Motor Co. has begun considering successors for Alan Mulally, the chief executive credited with turning around the No. 2 U.S. automaker over the past five years, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Ford executives Mark Fields, Jim Farley and Joe Hinrichs have been seen as potential internal candidates to succeed Mulally when he retires. Executive Chairman Bill Ford has repeatedly said he wants the next CEO to come from within Ford’s executive ranks.

Earlier this month, Ford executives met with Phil Martens, chief executive of aluminum products maker Novelis, as part of an early-stage process of looking at external options, said the source, who declined to be named because the process is private and preliminary. Novelis is the U.S. unit of India’s largest aluminum producer HindalCo Industries Ltd.

Ford spokeswoman Karen Hampton said Ford does not have a search underway for a successor to Mulally.

Martens declined to address any meeting, saying: “I’m sure Ford Motor Company will do what’s best for Ford.”

Identifying Mulally’s successor is crucial for Ford because the 66-year-old executive is so closely identified with the company’s success and its avoidance of the federal bailouts that rescued its U.S. competitors.

Mulally joined Ford in 2006 from airplane maker Boeing and is credited with steering the automaker back from brink of bankruptcy with $23 billion in borrowing and a plan, dubbed “One Ford,” to simplify and unify product development and supplies.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the CEO search, cited unnamed sources saying Mulally was expected to retire within two years. Bill Ford has said he wants Mulally to remain on the job for as long as he is willing.

The newspaper also identified Hyundai Motor Co North American chief John Krafcik as an external candidate. Krafcik could not be reached to comment.

Martens and Krafcik previously worked at Ford.

Warren Buffett picks another little-known successor

NEW YORK/BOSTON ― Berkshire Hathaway Inc expanded its succession plan for Warren Buffett on Monday, saying Virginia fund manager Ted Weschler will join the company early next year to help oversee its investments.

Berkshire said Weschler and Todd Combs, who joined the company last year, would manage its entire equity and debt portfolio after Buffett retires, possibly aided by a third manager. The third manager has not yet been named. For a time Combs and Weschler will run smaller portions of Berkshire’s stock holdings.

Berkshire’s equity portfolio totaled $52.36 billion as of June 30, according to an SEC filing.

Weschler, like Combs before him, has built up an eye-popping investment record, while keeping a low profile far from the canyons of Wall Street. The Virginia-based money manager delivered total gains of 1,236 percent over the last 11 years, according to investors.

A number of Buffett’s best-known biographers, as well as prominent fund managers including Mario Gabelli, all told Reuters Insider they were not familiar with Weschler or his work. The same was true when Combs was appointed last year.

Moments after one of the biggest personnel mysteries in finance was lifted and Weschler was appointed as one of a likely trio of heirs to Buffett’s stock-picking empire, Weschler kept to his usual routine. He was at his desk at Peninsula Capital Advisors — the hedge fund he founded in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1999 — dialing investors, his receptionist said.

On his voicemail, Weschler said he would call back soon.

Weschler’s interest in Warren Buffett, who is both chief executive officer of the ice-cream-to-insurance conglomerate and its money manager, has been growing for some time.

According to journalist Carol Loomis, a long-time friend of and ghost-writer for Buffett, Weschler paid millions of dollars to dine with the “Oracle of Omaha” twice in the last two years.

But unlike many who bid in the annual charity lunch with Buffett to benefit anti-poverty group Glide, Weschler insisted on anonymity — wanting his name to be kept out of the headlines and requesting a change of venue from the New York steakhouse where the lunch is usually held. Instead, Weschler, who bid $2.63 million, met Buffett on his home turf in Omaha.

Over the last years, pressure has mounted on Buffett to put a succession plan into place for the day the 81-year-old will no longer run the company. Buffett’s roles of investment manager will be split after he retires; the names on the CEO succession list are secret, however.

As Buffett has cast his eyes around the world for skillful money managers, Weschler has overseen a very concentrated portfolio with Direct TV, DaVita, which runs kidney dialysis centers, and Liberty Media, ranking among his biggest and most recent holdings.

In total, he held fewer than a dozen publicly traded U.S. stocks at the end of the second quarter, according to his most recent regulatory filing. He is not required to list stocks he may be shorting or betting against.

Weschler, 50, earned an undergraduate degree in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where Buffett began his own undergraduate career decades ago.

Before starting his stock-picking career in Virginia, Weschler worked at specialty chemicals and materials company W.R. Grace, where he at one time was assistant to the vice chairman.

The path for Weschler to join Berkshire was laid at this year’s lunch when Buffett pitched the idea of a move to Omaha, Buffett told Loomis. “I very much wanted him to do it, but I didn’t expect to get very far with the idea,” Buffett said.

“Ted will no doubt make a lot of money at Berkshire. But he was already making a lot of money with his fund — you can get an idea of that from the size of his (charity) bids — so money wasn’t a reason for him to come.”

In Charlottesville, a city one-quarter the size of Omaha, Weschler and his wife have supported a number of charities from helping sponsor a youth film festival to donating to one that builds structures for communities in need.