Hansell takes over NetJets helm following Sokol’s surprise departure

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NetJets president Jordan Hansell will take over as chairman and chief executive of the fractional ownership company following the surprise resignation of David Sokol in March.

Sokol - who was widely seen as the successor to Warren Buffett as the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway - purchased shares in chemicals maker Lubrizol shortly before he recommended to Buffett that Berkshire invest in the company.

The Omaha, Nebraska-based holding company announced the $9 billion takeover of Lubrizol in March.

Buffett is keen to stress that Sokol's actions were not unlawful. "Dave's purchases were made before he had discussed Lubrizol with me and with no knowledge of how I might react to his idea. In addition, of course, he did not know what Lubrizol's reaction would be if I developed an interest. Furthermore, he knew he would have no voice in Berkshire's decision once he suggested the idea," Buffet says.

These purchases "were not a factor in his decision to resign", he continues.

Sokol took the NetJets helm in 2009 as the financial crisis was battering the fractional giant. "Dave resurrected an operation that was destined for bankruptcy, absent Berkshire's deep pockets," Buffet says.

Following a period of restructuring and hefty cost cutting, Columbus, Ohio-based NetJets returned to profit last year and the spending sprees that have been synonymous with NetJets in the past two decades resumed.

Sokol initiated two hefty business aircraft orders. The first was with Embraer for 125 Phenom 300 light jets and the second with Bombardier for 120 Global business jets. The $6.7 billion deal is the largest in the history of private aviation.