Tony Nicely stepped down as Geico CEO on June 30, and Warren Buffett gives Nicely a big shout-out in the 2018 annual report.
“All Berkshire shareholders owe Tony their thanks,” Buffett wrote. “I head the list.”
By Buffett’s estimate, Nicely’s management of Geico has increased Berkshire’s intrinsic value by more than $50 billion.
“On top of that, he is a model for everything a manager should be, helping his 40,000 associates to identify and polish abilities they didn’t realize they possessed,” Buffett wrote.
Nicely joined Geico in 1961 at age 18.
Buffett met Nicely in the mid-1970s, a time when the insurer found itself near bankruptcy. A new CEO was brought in to rescue the company and Berkshire began to aggressively buy Geico shares until it owned 50 percent of the company.
When Nicely was promoted to CEO in 1993, Geico’s reputation and profitability had been restored, and Berkshire bought the remaining 50 percent.
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Geico is now the nation’s No. 2 auto insurer, contributing $22.1 billion in Berkshire’s float available for investment.
Bill Roberts, a longtime partner of Nicely’s, is the new CEO. Nicely remains chairman, and Buffett predicted that he would be helpful to Geico for the rest of his life. “He’s incapable of doing less.”