NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The story of how Warren Buffett took Berkshire Hathaway from a broken-down textile company in the 1960s to a multibillion-dollar portfolio of securities is the stuff of legends. Make no mistake: There will never be another Warren Buffett.I'm also quite certain that there will never be another Berkshire Hathaway. However, that has not stopped me from looking. I've been on the hunt for several years to find companies that could be the next Berkshire. The secret to Berkshire Hathaway's success has been highly effective capital allocation, and no one has done that more effectively than Buffett. A few decent-sized companies have drawn comparisons to Berkshire Hathaway in recent years, including Loews ( L) and Leucadia National ( LUK). Both own an interesting mix of businesses and securities. One of Leucadia's businesses is a joint venture with Berkshire Hathaway called Berkadia Commercial Mortgage. Still, they are simply too large and well-developed for me. I'm looking for smaller names that are not well-known. PICO Holdings I thought I'd found the right stock several years ago, and it's one that I still own. In fact, at one point I dubbed it the "poor man's Berkshire Hathaway," although it has not yet worked out as I'd hoped. The company is PICO Holdings ( PICO), a La Jolla, Calif.-based mini-conglomerate that has flown under the market's radar for years. It's on the smaller side with a market cap of about $500 million, but is an interesting combination of businesses, run by a management team that is steeped in the Graham and Dodd investment philosophy that Buffett was reared on. 10 Best-Performing 'Dividend Aristocrats' >> PICO owns a couple of insurance companies in run-off (which means they're not writing new business, just managing existing policies), and the associated investment portfolios that generate income for the company. PICO also owns a water business that holds significant water rights, a real estate business that buys and sells distressed properties, a position in technology company Spigit, and the newest venture, a canola oil processing facility in Minnesota that is expected to come online later this year. If successful, the factory should generate significant earnings for the company.
From an asset perspective, the company is fairly compelling. However, that has not translated into much success in recent years. With management's focus on increasing book value per share, earnings have not been consistent, and it's been a difficult company for investors to understand. Complicating matters, book value has actually fallen in recent years. I still believe that the sum of the parts is still worth more than the whole, but PICO has a long way to go, even to live up to my "poor man's Berkshire Hathaway" description. Biglari Holdings My latest quest to find Berkshire Hathaway-like potential resulted in a position in another smaller name, Biglari Holdings ( BH) of San Antonio. Formerly Steak 'n Shake, the company is the capital allocation vehicle of hedge fund manager Sardar Biglari, the company's CEO. Just 34 years old, Biglari has already made quite a splash in the investment world. If you have not yet heard of him, I suspect that you will. Biglari is a larger-than-life manager with some early successes, such as turning around fast food chain Steak 'n Shake. He has also drawn criticism from people who view him as a Warren Buffett wannabe who's trying to get there using some non-Buffett moves. Biglari drew heat a couple of years ago when he proposed changing the name of the company from Steak 'n Shake, to one that bears his name -- a move that shareholders approved. He was also under fire for proposing a pay package for himself that some people considered excessive. Ultimately, a slightly watered-down version of that package was also approved. 10 Stocks to 'Like' When Facebook Goes Public >> Biglari also lacks Buffett's Midwest folksy charm. He's much more of an activist than Buffett ever was, taking aim at companies, building stakes and attempting to get seats on their boards. That's what is currently unfolding with restaurant chain Cracker Barrel ( CBRL), in which Biglari Holdings has built a 17% position. Biglari has criticized Cracker Barrel's management and demanded changes. Contrast that to Buffett, who typically buys businesses whose management teams he likes and stays out of day-to-day operations. Suffice it to say that it's way too early to make comparisons between Biglari and Buffett, between Biglari Holdings and Berkshire Hathaway. I'm encouraged by some of Sardar Biglari's successes. He has shown early promise as a capital allocator. He may improve with more seasoning. Time will tell. Meanwhile, the quest continues. -- Written by Jonathan Heller, president of KEJ Financial Advisors and a contributor to TheStreet and Real Money. As of publication, he was long PICO and BH.