This chapter focuses on the Marmon Group. The Marmon Group is a diverse conglomerate comprised of hundreds of different companies in numerous sectors, including financial services, transportation, energy, construction, manufacturing, and so on. The businesses are low-tech and unglamorous but are leaders in their industries. The companies were acquired at different times without any master plan. The conglomerate’s aging chairman and vice-chairman have guided the company during the four decades since its inception. They made essentially all important corporate decisions, with scant oversight from the board of directors. Adhering to a hands-off management policy emphasizing individual autonomy, all other decisions were made by managers of the various subsidiaries. In the mid-1990s the fate of the conglomerate was uncertain after Jay and Robert Pritzker passed away. Many analysts thought that the Marmon Group was too unwieldy for any but the Pritzkers to run and predicted it would perish soon after they left. However, the analysts were wrong. In 2008, the Marmon Group became a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, and it continues to operate pretty much as it had for decades. The Marmon Group can be called a mini-Berkshire, possessing the same cultural traits as Berkshire and its sister subsidiaries. These common traits explain why Marmon, one of Berkshire’s largest and most profitable subsidiaries, fit right in at Berkshire.
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