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Shareholders in overflow rooms watch the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in Omaha, Neb., on May 4, 2019.Nati Harnik/The Associated Press

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said on Saturday that vice-chairman Greg Abel, who is next in line to succeed billionaire Warren Buffett as chief executive, sold his 1-per-cent stake in the company’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy unit for US$870-million.

In its quarterly report, Berkshire said the energy unit bought out Mr. Abel in June under an agreement among them and the family of the late billionaire philanthropist Walter Scott, which owns an 8-per-cent stake.

Mr. Buffett’s Omaha-based conglomerate took a US$362-million charge to capital, reflecting the premium over how much the stake’s value was reflected on its books.

Berkshire now owns 92 per cent of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, whose businesses include energy, utility and pipeline operations and a large U.S. real estate brokerage.

Mr. Scott, an Omaha native, was a long-time Berkshire director and Mr. Buffett’s friend who died last September at age 90.

Mr. Abel’s sale suggests that the Scott family’s stake may be worth US$7-billion. Berkshire ended June with more than US$105-billion of cash.

“I suspect that if Abel is selling, Walter Scott’s estate might also liquidate,” said Edward Jones & Co. analyst James Shanahan.

CFRA Research analyst Cathy Seifert added: “It was a little surprising there wasn’t an earlier regulatory filing for such a significant transaction.”

Mr. Shanahan and Ms. Seifert cover Berkshire.

Mr. Scott’s family could not immediately be reached for comment. Berkshire Hathaway Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Abel, 60, a hockey fan who grew up in Edmonton, joined Berkshire Hathaway Energy, then known as MidAmerican Energy, in 1992, eight years before Berkshire took it over.

He became MidAmerican’s chief in 2008, and Berkshire’s vice-chairman overseeing its dozens of non-insurance businesses in 2018.

Mr. Buffett turns 92 on Aug. 30. He said in May, 2021, that if he stepped down, Mr. Abel would become Berkshire’s chief executive.

Mr. Abel and Ajit Jain, a Berkshire vice-chairman overseeing its insurance businesses, were each paid US$19-million in each of the past three years. Mr. Buffett sets their compensation.

Mr. Shanahan said Mr. Abel’s sale “makes me wonder if he will buy Berkshire stock. He doesn’t own very much, and might use proceeds to have more skin in the game.”

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