In an industry where large egos are generally the rule, rather than the exception, Markel Corp.’s leadership structure could be deemed a bit unusual—and, as a result, doesn’t exist in many companies.

Richie Whitt, who on Jan. 1 became co-chief executive officer along with his colleague, Tom Gayner, admitted that nine out of 10 companies probably would not be able to make such a structure work.

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