Millions of Americans admire Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett as one of the smartest, most effective, and most personable CEOs in the United States. But which CEOs does Buffett himself admire?
In a wide-ranging interview with CNBC that aired this morning, Buffett discussed everything from changes in the tax law to the fact that he’s never visited a Taco Bell. Along the way, he named some CEOs he believes are doing a particularly good job. And you know he means it, because he’s put Berkshire Hathaway’s money where his mouth is, investing in (or with) the companies these CEOs run.
1. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
Buffett may well be Bezos’s number-one fan. “I’m amazed at the managerial talent of Jeff Bezos,” he told Squawk Box co-anchor Becky Quick. “I’ve been a constant fan, really, almost since he started. And the more I see him, the more impressed I’ve been with what he’s accomplished.”
2. BYD CEO Wang Chuanfu
BYD (for “Build Your Dreams”) is a Chinese manufacturer of automobiles and batteries that is building electric bus fleets and monorails for cities around the world. Berkshire Hathaway bought a large stake in the country in 2008. Wang, a trained chemist and the company’s low-key founder, is worth about U.S.$5.5 billion.
Charlie Munger, Buffett’s long-time business partner and Berkshire Hathaway’s vice chairman, first suggested investing in BYD, Buffett told Quick. “Charlie called me one day and says, ‘We’ve got to buy BYD. This guy runs it better than Thomas Edison.’ And I said, ‘That isn’t good enough.’ And he called a little later and said, ‘He’s a combination of Edison and Bill Gates.’ And I said, ‘Well, you’re warming up but it still isn’t good enough.'”
Eventually, Munger’s view prevailed. “Now it’s worked out so well that I’m actually starting to remember that it was my idea,” Buffett said. Of Wang, he added, “He’s got big, big ideas and he’s very good at executing.”
3. Precision Castparts CEO Mark Donegan
In January 2015, Berkshire Hathaway announced it was acquiring Portland, Oregon, metal components maker Precision Castparts in a $37.2 billion deal that is the company’s largest buy so far. (Berkshire Hathaway has $116 billion to spend and Buffett says he’s eager to buy something–if he can find a deal at the right price, so that could change if something strikes his fancy.)
4. Apple CEO Tim Cook