Is Ajit Jain the next "superstar" for Warren Buffett?

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Warren Buffett
Bangalore, Mar 23: The world's richest man, Warren Buffett has stirred the Indian corporate world considerably on his visit to India yesterday. The 'Oracle of Omaha' as he is often referred to will also push his philanthropic sensitivities to the industry bigwigs during his visit. But beside this there is more reason for India to cheer. While Buffett stole all the limelight, there is an Indian person who is basking in the glory showered by Buffett himself and that is Ajit Jain.

He was also quoted as saying, "I'm a retard for coming to India so late. India is not an emerging market, it is a big market".

Buffett has even gone to the extent of saying, "I owe it to the people of India for sending Ajit Jain (to me) ... he is much smarter than what I am." Buffett left no stone unturned to shower praises on the Indian professional who is increasingly rumoured as the next-in-line to take over Buffett's massive business empire that includes the investment conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway and other investment interests in American and blue chip companies.

After the media bombarded Buffett on his maiden visit to India on who would be a likely successor, he said in a lighter vein, "He (Jain) is not looking to take my job ... but he is an extraordinary person. On a Saturday in 1985 (when I first met him), I was looking at him and I knew I was talking to a person of incredible talent. He (Jain) loves what he does ... he is extraordinary in business, he is an extraordinary human being ... he is remarkable."

Following Buffett hinting that he wanted to retire soon, there were fervent talks on who would succeed him. Among the probables include the Chairman of NetJets and MidAmerican Energy David Sokol, Geico CEO Tony Nicely, MidAmerican Energy CEO Greg Abel, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe CEO Matt Rose.

Buffett just couldn't stop praising Ajit Jain's immense talent and integrity towards his profession and said, "He is like a brother, like a son and excels in every single task he takes ... he has been more than generous throughout his career. He could have made more money outside Berkshire, but he was unbelievably hardworking, smart and could have probably made more money for Berkshire than I have."

So, who is Ajit Jain, the "superstar"?
The Orissa lad who studied at IIT-Kharagpur, Ajit Jain worked with IBM and McKinsey and Co before joining Buffett's huge empire. He had limited knowledge of the insurance business then, but quickly rose to the top with his dedication and hard work. In an annual letter written to share holders by Buffett said that Jain was instrumental in adding billions of dollars to the value of Berkshire Hathaway and called him a superstar. Jain who has been heading the reinsurance business, for the last 25 years is considered the most apt choice for the coveted position though Buffett has not named him as yet.

"Ajit (Jain) insures risks that no one else has the desire or the capital to take on. His operation combines capacity, speed, decisiveness and, most importantly, brains in a manner that is unique in the insurance business," he added in the letter. He also lauded him for what he has done for the company, "In the past year, Ajit has significantly increased his life reinsurance operation, developing annual premium volume of about USD 2 billion that will repeat for decades."

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