Warren Buffett’s paint company Benjamin Moore could be getting deeper into trouble. Last month, the company fired CEO Bob Merritt, without disclosing any reason. Last week, Benjamin Moore chairwoman Tracy Britt appointed Michael Searles as the new chief executive. Mr. Searles is the third CEO of Benjamin Moore in less than two years.
Warren Buffett confidant’s unexpected moves
Sources familiar with the matter told James Covert of The New York Post that Bob Merritt was shown the door after allegedly harassing female employees. Things became trickier because the ousted CEO Bob Merritt is the husband of Jill Dilosa, a close friend of Tracy Britt. Jill Dilosa is a Wall Street investor who appeared on the “Wall Street Warriors” TV series in 2006.
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Ms. Britt is speculated to succeed Warren Buffett after the wise old man announces retirement. In fact, the Harvard graduate is very close to Buffett and her office is next to the Oracle of Omaha’s. In fact, Buffett walked the blonde down the aisle at her wedding last month, and stood in for her late father. Warren Buffett made Tracy Britt chairwoman of Benjamin Moore after firing Denis Abrams, the former CEO of the paint company who served before Bob Merritt.
But installing Britt as the chairperson of Benjamin Moore could be a move. She immediately hired Bob Merritt to replace Denis Adams. That was a surprising move. Especially because, as insider sources told The New York Post, it was an instant decision (because Merritt was the husband of her close friend?). Tracy Britt didn’t hire a search firm, and didn’t interview several candidates as normally happens in a deliberate process.
In fact, several Benjamin Moore executives criticized the hiring of Bob Merritt. That’s because Merritt was in semi-retirement and he had absolutely no experience in the paint industry. Later, Merritt impressed the company employees with his management style.
Warren Buffett’s challenges
The consistent hiring, firing, and allegations of harassing female employees are entirely unusual for Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway Inc (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B). Most of the chief executives at Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B) subsidiaries join and run a business for a long time, or until they retire. Now Warren Buffett has a big challenge, figuring out what’s going on at Benjamin Moore. And, after all this, is Tracy Britt worthy of succeeding him and maintaining the culture at Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B)?