Buffett Deputy Combs to Lead Geico While Running Portfolio

By Katherine Chiglinsky | December 24, 2019

When he’s not managing a $14 billion stock portfolio for Warren Buffett, Todd Combs will now also be running the second-biggest U.S. auto insurer.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. tapped one of its two key investing deputies to replace Bill Roberts as chief executive officer of auto insurer Geico starting next year. Roberts, who is wrapping up 35 years at Geico, will become vice chairman in January and leave the company at the end of next year.

The move is the latest reshuffling at the top of Geico, one of Berkshire Hathaway’s biggest operating units. Tony Nicely, who ran Geico for decades, stepped down from the role in 2018. The business produced $26.5 billion in underwriting revenue in the first nine months of 2019, up 7.2% from a year earlier.

“I am looking forward to taking on the responsibilities of CEO at GEICO,” Combs said in the statement. “They have a strong senior management team, a great organization of 40,000 employees, a great brand, and are a very successful insurance company.”

Combs, who joined Berkshire almost a decade ago, has been taking on a wider range of tasks, including spearheading the company’s health-care joint venture with JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Amazon.com Inc. Ajit Jain, one of Berkshire’s two vice chairmen, oversees all of the company’s insurance units.

Nicely, who remains executive chairman, said in the statement that Roberts told him last month that, given he was about to turn 70, he planned to retire in 2020.

Combs, 48, spent a few years at rival Progressive Corp. earlier in his career, before going on to manage a hedge fund. He joined Berkshire in 2010, and was joined as a portfolio manager under Buffett by Ted Weschler a couple years later.

He’s the latest Buffett deputy to make a change in recent months. Tracy Britt Cool, who had worked with the billionaire investor for years, announced in September that she planned to leave to start her own firm.

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