https://www.economist.com/leaders/2021/05/08/warren-buffett-should-step-aside-for-his-chosen-successor

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Berkshire Hathaway needs a leader who will take a fresh look at performance and governance

伯克希尔・哈撒韦需要一位以新角度审视公司业绩和治理模式的掌舵人

AT 90, WARREN BUFFETT continues to lead Berkshire Hathaway, wearing the three hats of chief executive, chairman and chief investment officer. For years, the question of whom the feted investor would anoint as his successor to run the giant conglomerate has been the subject of boardroom gossip. The world now knows the answer, though only because of a slip of the tongue by Mr Buffett’s 97-year-old right-hand man, Charlie Munger, at the annual shareholders’ meeting on May 1 st. That forced Mr Buffett to confirm that his heir apparent as chief executive is Greg Abel, 58, a trusted lieutenant who runs Berkshire’s non-insurance businesses.

九十岁的巴菲特依然掌管着伯克希尔・哈撒韦公司,身兼首席执行官、董事长和首席投资官三职。多年来,董事会里私下揣测不休的一大主题就是这位股神会选中谁来接手这庞大的企业集团。现在全世界都知道答案了,尽管只是因为巴菲特 97 岁的搭档查理・芒格(Charlie Munger)在 5 月 1 日的年度股东大会上说漏了嘴。这逼得巴菲特承认将接任首席执行官的是 58 岁的格雷格・阿贝尔(Greg Abel),这位很受他信任的副手目前负责伯克希尔的非保险业务。

The cack-handed way in which the succession plan became public fits a bigger pattern. Berkshire is a huge public company, with a stockmarket value of $645 bn and an army of devoted retail investors. It is, though, structured and run in much the way it was when Mr Buffett took it over in the 1960 s. He has never hidden his reluctance to retire. He once joked that he’ ll step down five years after he dies. However, Berkshire needs to make changes if it is to keep up with the times—and that includes having a new person at the top.

继任人计划以这种笨拙的方式公之于众,符合这家公司的一个整体模式。伯克希尔是一家巨型上市公司,股票市值达 6450 亿美元,有一大批忠实的散户投资者。但它的结构和运作方式大体上还是上世纪 60 年代巴菲特接管时的样子。巴菲特也从不掩饰不愿退休的态度,他曾开玩笑说会在自己离世五年后卸任。然而,伯克希尔若要跟上时代的步伐就必须做出改变,包括更换最高负责人。

That is not to denigrate Mr Buffett or his achievements. In his 56 years in charge, Berkshire’s total returns have been double those of the S&P 500 index. He can claim to be the greatest value-investor who ever lived. He has instilled an admirable trust-based culture at Berkshire. The dozens of fawning books he has inspired constitute their own genre of business publishing.

这并不是贬低巴菲特或是他的成就。在执掌伯克希尔的 56 年里,他取得的总回报是标普 500 指数的两倍。他可以说是史上最伟大的价值投资者。他给伯克希尔注入了一种值得赞美的基于信任的文化。几十本颂扬巴菲特的书作在商业出版界已然自成一派。

However, cracks have started to appear. One is Berkshire’s financial performance, which has been mediocre over the past decade. Mr Buffett has made some costly mistakes, such as bad bets on airlines and Kraft Heinz, a consumer-goods giant. He has admitted to overpaying for acquisitions, including a big metal-parts-maker that later wrote off $11 bn. Were it not for a valuable stake in Apple, the bottom line would have looked limper still. Suspicion is growing that Mr Buffett has lost his magic touch in allocating capital, perhaps because, like other star fund managers, he is too big to outperform the market by much.

但问题已经开始显现。一是伯克希尔的财务业绩,过去十年一直表现平平。巴菲特犯了一些代价高昂的错误,比如对几家航空公司和消费品巨头卡夫亨氏的糟糕押注。他承认在一些收购上出价过高,包括一家最终冲销了 110 亿美元的大型金属零件制造商。如果不是持有的苹果股份的价值高涨,伯克希尔的盈利还会更显低迷。人们越来越怀疑巴菲特在资本配置上魔力不再,这也许是因为,跟其他明星基金经理一样,他的投资规模太大了,已经难以大幅跑赢大市。

Berkshire’s governance needs rethinking, too. For all the autonomy its divisions enjoy, Mr Buffett still has to sign off on the big decisions. He has special shares with greatly enhanced voting power. The board is stacked with Friends of Warren; five of its 14 members are 89 or over. Berkshire’s failure to write or disclose its policies on investor priorities such as climate risk and diversity irks some shareholders, including big institutions like BlackRock. When investors called Buffett-style governance “unique” they used to mean it as a compliment. No longer.

伯克希尔的治理模式也需要反思。虽说公司各部门各司其职,但重大决策还是需要巴菲特拍板。他持有的特殊股份极大地加强了他的投票权。董事会里满是「巴菲特的朋友」,14 名董事中五人在 89 岁或以上。伯克希尔没有就气候风险和多样性等投资者关注的议题制定或披露相关政策,引起了一些股东不满,包括贝莱德(BlackRock)等大型机构。投资者称巴菲特式的治理「独树一帜」,以往这是赞美,如今不是了。

The company’s lousy disclosure looks out of step with the times, too. Berkshire offers little beyond mandatory filings and the occasional press release. It does not hold analyst meetings or investor days; it does not even have a functioning investor-relations department. The closest thing to outside scrutiny it tolerates is the three hours of friendly shareholders’ questions, teed up by a genial reporter from CNBC, at the annual conclave.

伯克希尔的信息披露不足,也显得与时代格格不入。除了必须提交的文件和偶尔发布的新闻稿之外,它很少公开其他信息。它不举行分析师会议,没有投资者日,甚至没有一个正常运作的投资者关系部门。在外部监督上,这家公司能接受的就是年度股东大会上三小时气氛友好的问答,由一位和蔼可亲的 CNBC 记者主持。

The company needs to start dealing with these deficiencies now, or face the increased risk of a drama—such as an attempt by activist investors to break up Berkshire, or a regulatory rumble—when Mr Buffett does eventually leave. There is no need to stoop to the box-ticking corporate conformity that he so loathes, an aversion reflected in his public criticism of the metrics and questionnaires wielded by ESG campaigners.

伯克希尔现在就要着手补足这些短板,否则等到巴菲特最终离任时,公司面临戏剧性变化的风险将加大,比如激进投资者要求拆分伯克希尔,或者引来监管部门不满。但也没必要屈从那种条条框框式的企业治理方式,巴菲特对此深恶痛绝,曾公开批评环境、社会和企业治理活动人士拿各类指标和问卷当令箭。

Get the job done, Warren 交卷吧,沃伦

New blood and greater openness would be a good start. Naming a successor is a first step. The next should be to replenish the board with outside appointments. Investors must get the information they need to make informed decisions, including analysis of where the firm is creating value, and the tax and other synergies that justify keeping the conglomerate intact.

可以从注入新鲜血液和提高透明度开始。指定接班人是第一步。接下来应该任命外部人士来补充董事会。投资者要能获得必需的信息以做出明智的决定,包括对公司正在何处创造价值的分析,以及能证明应当保持现有企业集团结构不变的税务状况和其他协同效应。

The biggest question of all is when Mr Buffett should go. He may want to die at his desk, but the longer he stays, the more he risks becoming a liability. He said at this year’s AGM that bad leaders are the biggest risk companies face. Good leaders who stay too long are not far behind. Mr Buffett has had a wonderful run. But now that the succession is out in the open, it is time to move aside and let Mr Abel fix what isn’t working.

最大的问题是巴菲特何时该离任。他可能想在办公桌前坚持到生命最后一刻,但他留任越久,就越可能成为公司的负累。他在今年的股东大会上说,糟糕的领导者是公司面临的最大风险。但好的领导者如果在任太久,结果也好不到哪里去。巴菲特的掌舵成就辉煌。但现在接班人既已公开,是时候退位让贤,让阿贝尔来解决问题了

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我们应该学会去理解别人的观点,不仅仅是服从和被告知。

我们应该学会去理解别人的观点,不仅仅是服从和被告知。
我们应该学会去理解别人的观点,不仅仅是服从和被告知。
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