Warren Buffett, the investing legend who heads Berkshire Hathaway, has finally named a potential successor.
Two of them, in fact. The 87-year-old Buffett appointed Ajit Jain, who heads Berkshire's reinsurance operations, and Gregory Abel, who runs Berkshire Hathaway Energy, as vice chairmen of the parent company, a title previously held solely by Buffett's longtime partner, Charlie Munger, who's 94.
"It's part of the movement toward succession over time," Buffett told CNBC's Becky Quick in an interview broadcast on Wednesday. "This would have made sense five years ago, too. They both have Berkshire in their blood, they love the company, and they know their operations like the back of their hand."
The announcement quells some of the speculation about how Berkshire — a company Buffett transformed from a textile producer in the 1960s to a $500 billion conglomerate with businesses from railroads to insurance and manufacturing — would handle his eventual departure, said Cathy Seifert, a New York-based analyst with CFRA Research.
"This formalizes what has probably been in place for some time," Seifert told the Washington Examiner. Naming two new vice chairs means it recognizes that "it's going to be very difficult to replace Charlie and Warren with one person," she added, and the moves should allay investor concerns.
Abel joined Berkshire Hathaway Energy in 1992, while Jain took his first position with Berkshire Hathaway Insurance Group in 1986, the Omaha, Neb.-based company said in a statement.
"Ajit has longevity and an insurance background, and considering that insurance is still a core focus at Berkshire, I think it's important that somebody with that background be elevated," Seifert said. "Given their increased foray into the industrial space, Greg brings an appropriate skill set to the table."
While the appointments create the possibility of a horse race between the men, it's also possible that they could simply remain vice chairs overseeing their respective spheres when Buffett and Munger step down.
For now, both of the older men will remain in their current roles, overseeing capital investments in stock as well as mergers and acquisitions. Investors will likely take a keen interest, however, in the degree to which the two new vice chairs influence Berkshire's acquisition strategy, Seifert said.
Buffett, nicknamed the Oracle of Omaha for his investing prowess, has a history of outsize purchases, including the takeovers of Burlington Northern railroad for $26.8 billion in 2010 and aerospace parts-maker Precision Castparts for $35.6 billion in 2016.
In its most recent quarterly filing, the company reported a 43 percent decline in profit in the three months through September as its insurance businesses racked up $3 billion in estimated claims from natural disasters including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which hammered the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico. Profit was $4.07 billion, or $2,473 a share.
Berkshire climbed 1.15 percent to $308,000 in New York trading on Wednesday afternoon. The shares have gained 27 percent in the past year, outpacing a 21 percent increase on the broader S&P 500.
Buffett's appearance on CNBC in tandem with the announcement was a "well-played move," Seifert added. "It put him front and center in front of investors, enabling people to see clearly that he's still in control of his faculties, and that this was done proactively, not reactively. If he hadn't been out and about, speculation would have run rampant."
Instead, the octogenarian is in "remarkably good health, considering the life I've lived," Buffett told CNBC. "I feel terrific, I love what I do, and I can't wait to go to the office in the morning."