Ready to Try On Mr. Buffett’s Shoes

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It is tough to follow a legend.

Ted Weschler considers himself one of Warren Buffett’s biggest admirers, but until this past summer, he couldn’t actually see himself working for the Oracle of Omaha. The spotlight and scrutiny that come with such a job simply wouldn’t be worth it.

Yet this month, the 50-year-old Mr. Weschler, a hedge-fund manager based in Charlottesville, Va., will join Berkshire Hathaway Inc. to help Mr. Buffett oversee Berkshire’s $110 billion in stocks, bonds and other investments. That positions Mr. Weschler, along with 40-year-old Todd Combs, another former hedge-fund manager, as a candidate to take over, some day, a portfolio Mr. Buffett has run with unparalleled success for more than 45 years.

Because of the inevitable scrutiny, many leading money managers never even bothered to apply when Mr. Buffett announced in 2007 that he was looking for talented investors with the potential to succeed him as Berkshire’s portfolio manager.

“There was no chance that any [top fund manager] would take the job,” says Bruce Greenwald, a finance professor at Columbia Business School. “They are well-established, their incomes would go down, they would lose autonomy, and they didn’t want the invidious comparisons against Buffett’s performance.

“Who would ever want the job under those circumstances?”

Mr. Weschler had given it some thought. When Mr. Buffett initially began scouring the world for money managers and potential successors, Mr. Wesch–ler considered applying, but ultimately decided the job would be too high profile, according to interviews with people familiar with Mr. Weschler, Mr. Buffett and Berkshire. This article is based on those interviews.

But after donating more than $5 million to win two charity auctions to dine with Mr. Buffett, a job offer came that Mr. Weschler didn’t expect—and also couldn’t pass up. Mr. Buffett, age 81, announced Mr. Weschler’s hiring in September, and he plans to go to work for the firm later this month.

Like Mr. Combs, he will be paid a base salary plus a bonus tied to performance versus the S&P 500 stock index.

An unabashed Buffett disciple who had long worked outside the spotlight, Mr. Weschler has run a successful hedge fund, Peninsula Capital Advisors, for the past dozen years from a second-floor office above an old book store on Main Street in Charlottesville, a picturesque college town that is home to the University of Virginia. The fund, which he is now winding down, had about $2 billion in assets.

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