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Warren Buffett: Companies in distress are increasingly turning to Berkshire Hathaway

Famed investor Warren Buffett built a reputation where companies would call him, especially during periods of distress, seeking a financial lifeline.

Speaking at Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK-A, BRK-B) annual shareholders meeting, Buffett called that reputation a “huge corporate asset.”

More specifically, Buffett characterized Berkshire as “the one place, I think in the world, where somebody can call on a Saturday and meet on a Sunday morning and have a $10 billion commitment, and nobody in the world doubts whether the commitment will be upheld and it's not subject to any kind of welching on the company... nothing but Berkshire's word."

While the capital may be critical, some might argue that there's a significant endorsement that comes with the name Buffett and question if that will continue at Berkshire after him.

Buffett’s successors have Berkshire “in their veins”

Buffett told Yahoo Finance before the meeting that he expects the calls will still come.

Why? For starters, he's developed a deep bench of talent when it comes to the company’s leadership. In early 2018, Buffett put Ajit Jain in charge of all Berkshire's insurance activities and Greg Abel in charge of all other operations.

2019 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting
2019 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting

"These moves were overdue," Buffett wrote in the annual letter. "Berkshire is now far better managed than when I alone was supervising operations. Ajit and Greg have rare talents, and Berkshire blood flows through their veins."

As succession planning enters the spotlight, Buffett was questioned why Jain and Abel were not onstage with him and Munger.

"We thought about having four of us up here. This format is not set in stone at all. I can tell you, actually the truth is, Charlie and I are afraid of looking bad," Buffett said, inviting the audience to ask them questions too. "You could not have two better operating managers than Greg and Ajit. It's just fantastic what they've accomplished they work harder by far."

On the investing side, Buffett hired two younger lieutenants, Combs in 2010 and Weschler in 2011, each of whom manage $13 billion of Berkshire's massive $173 billion stock portfolio and have "total discretion" over investment decisions.

“Ted and Todd would multiply our effectiveness if such a period comes along. They are very very useful to Berkshire," Buffett said. "[We'd] have a better chance of getting more calls and having them appropriately filtered the next time conditions get chaotic than we did last time and that's important."

Buffett’s righthand man, Charlie Munger, put it more bluntly.

“In the world goes to hell in hand basket you people will be in the right company,” Munger said. “We got a lot of cash and we know how to behave well in a panic. If the world doesn't go to hell, are things so bad now?”

Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.