wealth management

Warren Buffett diagnosed with prostate cancer, but he’s got no plans to step down

Cara Waters /

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has stage one prostate cancer and will begin a two-month treatment in mid-July consisting of daily radiation treatments.

The 81-year-old Berkshire Hathaway chief executive indicated in a letter to shareholders yesterday that he had no intention of stepping down from his role.

“The good news is that I’ve been told by my doctors that my condition is not remotely life threatening or even debilitating in any meaningful way,” Buffett said in the letter.

“My doctors and I have decided on a two-month treatment of daily radiation to begin in mid-July.”

“This regimen will restrict my travel during that period, but will not otherwise change my daily routine.”

Buffett received his diagnosis last week and had a CAT scan, bone scan and MRI which showed no incidence of cancer elsewhere in his body.

“I feel great – as if I were in my normal excellent health – and my energy level is 100%,” he said.

“I will let shareholders know immediately should my health situation change.”

“Eventually, of course, it will; but I believe that day is a long way off.”

Berkshire shares fell 1.5% in after-hours trading on the news, however the impact on the market was limited given Buffett’s advanced age and his active work on a succession plan now for some years in the event he needs to step down.

The investment guru’s preparation for eventually stepping down from his role as chief executive has involved moving from stocks into companies and thereby building a conglomerate out of a stock portfolio, hiring two hedge fund managers to eventually take over the investment side of Berkshire’s business and merging Wesco into Berkshire.

Buffett has already identified a successor for his role as chief executive but the successor has not been announced.

In his annual letter to investors released in February, Buffett said the board was “enthusiastic about my successor as CEO, an individual to whom they have had a great deal of exposure and whose managerial and human qualities they admire.”

However, little else has been said about who would replace Buffett, who has been at the helm since the 1970s.

Among the possibilities are Ajit Jain, a long-time Berkshire employee who now runs the company’s reinsurance business; Tony Nicely, the chief executive of Berkshire’s GEICO unit; and Todd Combs, an investment fund manager in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Buffett previously told the New York Times that Combs was a talented manager who understood the Berkshire culture.

“He’s always been enamoured with Berkshire,” Buffett said.

“He’s got the best chance of being the successor, but if we find the right guy or gal, we’d take that person, too.”

Buffett said he planned to split his current role of chief executive, chief investment officer and chairman among a number of people.

With his personal wealth estimated at $44 billion, Buffett is listed by Forbes magazine as the world’s third richest person.

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Cara Waters

Cara Waters is the former editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter at the Financial Times website FT Adviser in London and she also worked for The Sunday Times in London.

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