Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is a holding company owning subsidiaries engaged in a number of diverse business activities. The most important of these is the property and casualty insurance business conducted on both a direct and reinsurance basis through a number of subsidiaries. Included in this group of subsidiaries is GEICO Corporation, the sixth largest auto insurer in the United States and General Re Corporation, one of the four largest reinsurers in the world.
Investment portfolios of insurance subsidiaries include meaningful equity ownership percentages of other publicly traded companies. Investments with a market value in excess of $500 million at the end of 2001 include approximately 11% of the capital stock of American Express Company, approximately 8% of the capital stock of The Coca-Cola Company, approximately 9% of the capital stock of The Gillette Company, approximately 9% of the capital stock of H & R Block, Inc., approximately 15% of the capital stock of Moody’s Corporation, approximately 18% of the capital stock of The Washington Post Company and approximately 3% of the capital stock of Wells Fargo and Company. Much information about these publicly-owned companies is available, including information released from time to time by the companies themselves.
Numerous business activities are conducted through non-insurance subsidiaries. FlightSafety International provides training of aircraft and ship operators. Executive Jet provides fractional ownership programs for general aviation aircraft. Nebraska Furniture Mart, R.C. Willey Home Furnishings, Star Furniture, and Jordan’s Furniture are retailers of home furnishings. Borsheim’s, Helzberg Diamond Shops and Ben Bridge Jeweler are retailers of fine jewelry. Scott Fetzer is a diversified manufacturer and distributor of commercial and industrial products, the principal products are sold under the Kirby and Campbell Hausfeld brand names.
Also included in the non-insurance subsidiaries are several large manufacturing businesses acquired during 2000 and 2001. Shaw Industries is the world’s largest manufacturer of tufted broadloom carpet. Benjamin Moore is a formulator, manufacturer and retailer of architectural and industrial coatings. Johns Manville is a leading manufacturer of insulation and building products. Acme Building Brands is a manufacturer of face brick and concrete masonry products. MiTek Inc. produces steel connector products and engineering software for the building components market.
In addition, Berkshire’s other non-insurance business activities include: Buffalo News, a publisher of a daily and Sunday newspaper; See’s Candies, a manufacturer and seller of boxed chocolates and other confectionery products; H.H. Brown, Lowell, Dexter and Justin Brands, manufacturers and distributors of footwear under a variety of brand names; International Dairy Queen, which licenses and services a system of about 6,000 stores that offer prepared dairy treats and food; CORT, a provider of rental furniture, accessories and related services and XTRA Corporation, a leading operating lessor of transportation equipment.
Operating decisions for the various Berkshire businesses are made by managers of the business units. Investment decisions and all other capital allocation decisions are made for Berkshire and its subsidiaries by Warren E. Buffett, in consultation with Charles T. Munger. Mr. Buffett is Chairman and Mr. Munger is Vice Chairman of Berkshire's Board of Directors.