Warren Buffett will remain Berkshire Hathaway's chairman, shareholders vote says

The company also announced Q1 operating profit of $7.04bn and a bigger stake in Activision Blizzard at its annual meeting

Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway, during the company's annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, US, on April 30. Bloomberg
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Berkshire Hathaway shareholders on Saturday rejected proposals to have an independent chairman to replace Warren Buffett, and require his company to disclose more about its climate-related risks and efforts to improve diversity.

Shareholders supported letting Mr Buffett keep both the chairman and chief executive roles by a nearly 6-to-1 margin, Berkshire said at its annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.

Mr Buffett, 91, has run Berkshire since 1965.

The National Legal and Policy Centre, a Berkshire shareholder, had said it was poor corporate governance for the legendary investor to retain both roles.

Its proposal gained greater attention when Calpers, which invested $460 billion on April 28 and is the largest US public pension fund, expressed support, as it has at other companies.

Berkshire's board, however, said Mr Buffett should keep both roles. Mr Buffett's oldest son Howard Buffett, a Berkshire director, is expected to become non-executive chairman when his father is no longer in charge.

By approximately 3-to-1 margins, shareholders also rejected proposals to have the company disclose more about the climate-related risks, greenhouse gas emissions and diversity efforts in its dozens of businesses.

Berkshire's board also opposed those proposals, saying its operating businesses already disclosed or appropriately managed environmental risks, and were committed to diversity, equity and inclusion.

The proposals faced long odds to pass, given Mr Buffett's control of 32 per cent of Berkshire's voting power. He owns approximately 16 per cent of Berkshire's stock.

Berkshire's slate of 15 people to serve as directors won shareholder approval by an overwhelming margin.

The billionaire investor also used the meeting on Saturday to reveal major new investments including a bigger stake in Activision Blizzard, while also railing against Wall Street excess and addressing the risks to his conglomerate of inflation and nuclear war.

Berkshire Hathaway took a 9.5 per cent stake in the video game maker, and built most of that stake after Microsoft agreed to buy the company for $68.7bn.

Berkshire had previously disclosed owning a much smaller Activision stake, purchased by one of the portfolio managers who help Mr Buffett invest Berkshire's money.

Mr Buffett said Berkshire, long faulted for holding too much cash, boosted its combined stakes in oil company Chevron and "Call of Duty" game maker Activision Blizzard nearly six-fold to more than $31bn.

Berkshire also said first-quarter operating profit was little changed at $7.04bn, as many of its dozens of businesses withstood supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 variants, the Ukraine invasion and rising costs from inflation.

The meeting on Saturday was Berkshire's first welcoming shareholders since 2019, before Covid-19 derailed America's largest corporate gathering for two years.

Mr Buffett said it "really feels good" to address shareholders in person, after holding the last two meetings without them. Attendees included JP Morgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon and the actor Bill Murray.

Updated: May 01, 2022, 1:25 PM