What Is Berkshire Hathaway?

Berkshire Hathaway is a holding company that owns and manages a wide range of subsidiary companies. Companies wholly or partially owned by Berkshire Hathaway include GEICO, Fruit of the Loom and Coca-Cola.

As of 2014, Berkshire Hathaway is based in Omaha, Neb. and is presided over by investor Warren Buffet. Forbes lists it as the fifth largest public company in the world.

Berkshire Hathaway is the sole owner of GEICO, BNSF Railway, Dairy Queen, Fruit of the Loom, Lubrizol, Helzberg Diamonds, NetJets and Flight Safety International. The company owns half of Heinz and has minority holdings in Wells Fargo, Coca-Cola, American Express and IBM. It also owns an undisclosed share amount of Mars, Inc.

The company originated from a merger between Berkshire Fine Spinning Associates and the Hathaway Manufacturing Company in 1888. Current president and CEO Warren Buffet became involved in the company when he began buying stock in it in 1962. After a decline in the textile industry, the company offered to buy back the stock, but made a formal offer at a lower price than it had previously informally quoted. Upset by this, Buffet purchased a majority of the company's stock and guided it out of financial trouble by diversifying into insurance.