Wally Weitz has arguably long been Omaha’s second-most famous value investor, after a guy named Warren Buffett.
Now Weitz appears set to lend his own thoughts and expertise to Buffett by joining the board of directors of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
Weitz’s nomination was announced by Berkshire in its annual proxy statement ahead of the company’s April 30 annual meeting, and it will be voted on by shareholders there. Weitz would replace Tom Murphy, who recently resigned from the 15-member board.
Weitz founded Weitz Investment Management in 1983 and currently serves as co-chief investment officer of the Omaha firm that manages more than $4 billion in assets.
Quietly, over many years, Weitz carved out his own niche in the world of value investing — picking stocks that appear to be trading for less than their intrinsic or book value. And he has long attributed part of his success to applying lessons learned by observing Buffett and his methods.
“I consider him a mentor,” Weitz said in 2014. “But while we see each other from time to time, I have learned mainly from watching what he does with Berkshire and reading his letters.”
At 72, Weitz is 19 years younger than the 91-year-old Buffett. He is a New Orleans native who began his investment career as a securities analyst in New York. He and his wife, Barbara, decided that her hometown of Omaha was a better place to raise children, so they made the move in 1973.
He initially worked for investment firm Chiles Heider before founding his own firm. Before long, he began attracting national attention with his impressive returns.
He and Barbara, now a member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, also formed a family charitable foundation in 2000 that works to alleviate poverty in Omaha.
Weitz would be considered an independent director for Berkshire. At least half of Berkshire’s directors must be independent.
“Wallace Weitz brings to the board his substantial financial experience as an investor in public companies and as a director of a public company,” Berkshire said in its filings.
Weitz would also obviously add to Berkshire’s Omaha ties. Buffett has long said that after he is gone, the board should keep Berkshire rooted in his hometown.
Buffett last fall named daughter Susie to Berkshire’s board, making her the third member from the Buffett family, along with her father and brother, Howard.
Warren Buffett said at the time that Susie’s appointment would help preserve Berkshire’s unique culture long after he is gone.
Weitz can play that role, too. He has long been a fan of Berkshire culture, which is one of the reasons that Berkshire’s stock has been a major holding in his firms’ funds from the beginning.
A year ago, he called Berkshire an example of the kind of company he always looks for: one that “seeks to serve all of its constituencies — shareholders, employees, customers and communities — in a socially responsible and sustainable manner.”
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