Friday, July 30, 2010

Li Lu Reported in Line to Succeed Buffett

The usually reclusive Li Lu is suddenly in the news and this time it's the headline-grabbing kind. Wall Street Journal speculated today that, as a hedge fund manager, he is now in line to become a successor to the legendary Warren Buffett.

Mr. Li, 44 years old, has emerged as a leading candidate to run a chunk of Berkshire's $100 billion portfolio, stemming from a close friendship with Charlie Munger, Berkshire's 86-year-old vice chairman. In an interview, Mr. Munger revealed that Mr. Li was likely to become one of the top Berkshire investment officials. "In my mind, it's a foregone conclusion," Mr. Munger said.

The job of filling Mr. Buffett's shoes is among the most high-profile succession stories in modern corporate history. Mr. Buffett, who will turn 80 in a month, says he has no current plans to step down and will likely split his job after he leaves the company into separate CEO and investing functions. Mr. Li's emergence as a contender to oversee Berkshire investments is the first time a name has been identified to fill the investment part of Mr. Buffett's legendary role.

The paper goes on to cite Li Lu's success in introducing BYD, a Chinese battery and auto maker, to Buffett's Berkeshire Hathaway Inc., a story previously highlighted by Fortune. That investment had led to a 10-fold windfall for Li Lu's fund and Berkeshire.

Unlike Buffett himself, Li Lu has focused his investment in Asia and in technologies. Although a fugitive in exile, he is "able to travel to China on a limited basis today" and "hopes to regain full travel privileges soon," according to the Journal.

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