Howard Buffett: Farming and finance

Warren Buffett has chosen his son Howard to succeed him as chairman of his multibillion dollar holding company. But Howie, a farmer, is no chip off the old block.

Legendary investor Warren Buffett has chosen his son Howard to succeed him as chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, his multibillion dollar holding company. But "Howie" - a farmer - is no chip off the old block. More comfortable on a tractor than in a boardroom, Howard is a hands-on philanthropist whose foundation spends $50 million per year to combat world hunger. Lesley Stahl interviews both father and son about their lives and their vision for the future of the company.


The following is a script of "Howard Buffett" which aired on Dec. 11, 2011. Lesley Stahl is correspondent, Karen Sughrue and Julie Holstein, producers.

Warren Buffett, America's second richest man, is a household name. His 57-year-old son Howard? Not so much. And yet he's the person Warren Buffett wants to succeed him as chairman of Berkshire Hathaway - the mega-holding company that Buffett built - that owns everything from insurance to ice cream, with its stock trading at over $100,000 a share.

We wanted to find out: What are his son's qualifications for the job? For most of his adult life, Howard - the middle of Buffett's three children - has been a corn and soybean farmer in Nebraska and Illinois. When he's not up on his tractor, he spends his time using his farming skills, and his father's money, to help alleviate world hunger.

Like his dad, Howard does not live the high life. Unlike his dad, he loves getting down in the dirt.

Growing up Buffett
What's it like when your father is Warren Buffett, one of the world's richest men? The ride wasn't always free for his son Howard.

This is the man who will become the next chairman of the company-acquiring, investment-picking, money-making machine Berkshire Hathaway, if Warren Buffett has his way.

Howard is a farmer who would rather dig up the ground and drive big machines than sit in a boardroom.

Lesley Stahl: Were you stunned? Were you surprised?

Howard Buffett: I was surprised.

Stahl: But no sign that he's about to leave?

Howard: He won't leave until he's buried in the ground. I hate to put it that way...

This is no gentleman farmer. Howard Buffett works his 1500-acres in Pana, Illinois, himself.

Stahl: We're going to go pick corn.

Howard: Ya, we're going to pick corn.

This year he harvested 87,000 bushels of corn with his 300-horsepower combine that he runs hands-free off GPS.

Stahl: You're like a kid, you know, who can ride his bike without his hands, right?

Howard: It's a big toy.

Stahl: It's a big toy--

Howard: But it's expensive.

But with corn prices soaring, he can afford it. And, incidentally, even a farmer named Buffett can get farm subsidies. Howard received $300,000 in federal payments over 13 years.

Stahl: Here's something you said once. This is a quote. "It seemed nothing I could do would be as successful as what he did," meaning dad.

Howard: That comment would mean that in the world's eyes, you know, I would never be seen in the same success as he would, particularly in investing and in business. That's okay. And I mean, you know, and my mom and dad always made it clear that that was okay.

Warren Buffett: There's no sense in trying to compete with me because he's not going to play my game. He should have his own game.

Warren: Grain shipments were down a lot last week.

Warren Buffett says he always told Howard to find something he loved as much as he loved making money.

Warren: Naturally, I have a lot of top secret stuff.

Howard: You always do! (laugh)

Stahl: You're all business. I think of you as mister indoors. The-- the numbers...

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