Berkshire Hathaway is led by Warren Buffett, the nation's second-wealthiest man, and is a holding company that operates subsidiaries primarily in the insurance business.
Included in the group of subsidiaries that underwrite property and casualty insurance and reinsurance is GEICO, the third largest auto insurer in the United States and two of the largest reinsurers in the world, General Re and the Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group. Other subsidiaries that underwrite property and casualty insurance include National Indemnity Company, Medical Protective Company, Applied Underwriters, U.S. Liability Insurance Company, Central States Indemnity Company, Kansas Bankers Surety, Cypress Insurance Company, BoatU.S. and several other subsidiaries.
Berkshire Hathaway has been one of the best-performing stocks in history but lost $11.8 billion in value in 2008.
Berkshire has the most expensive stock for sale on the New York Stock Exchange. The company has never split its stock once and a single share in the Class A stock was valued at more than $70,000 each.
Besides insurance, Berkshire has stakes in various companies from the Buffalo News newspaper to Fruit of the Loom and candy and diamond companies.
In 2006, the company acquired Business Wire, a leading distributor of business news and regulatory filings. Berkshire also acquired Applied Underwriters, a provider of workers' compensation insurance and solutions.
The company reported total revenues in 2008 of $107.7 billion, down from $118.2 billion a year before. Net earnings were $4.9 billion.
Berkshire has reportedly cut jobs in half of its companies over the past year but overall employment has grown 5%. More job cuts are expected this year.
Warren Buffett announced he plans to give away most of his fortune in Berkshire Hathaway stock to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The donation could eventually be worth more than $30 billion.
Updated March 3, 2009