Buffett plays down health concern, mulled megadeal
By Ben Berkowitz
OMAHA, Nebraska (Reuters) - Warren Buffett tried to allay fears of Berkshire Hathaway Inc shareholders about the company's future after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and revealed that he recently tried to make one of the biggest acquisitions of his storied career.
The question of who will succeed Buffett, 81, as chief executive became more of an imperative after Buffett disclosed the diagnosis on April 17.
While Buffett called it "a really minor event," his early-stage prostate cancer was a reminder that for all his success as an investor and all the plaudits he gets, Buffett is mortal and would be hard to replace at the company he has run since 1965.
That made the future of Berkshire, with or without Buffett, a central focus of the five hours of questions at its annual meeting on Saturday in downtown Omaha, Nebraska.
"I don't think that every deal that I made would necessarily be makeable by a successor, but they'll bring other talents," including skills to be an effective chief risk officer, Buffett said. "We're not going to have an arts major in charge of Berkshire."
Charlie Munger, who is Berkshire's 88-year-old vice chairman and sat beside Buffett, quipped: "I rather resent all this sympathy and attention that Warren is getting. I probably have more prostate cancer than he does."
The annual meeting is the centerpiece of a weekend of events that Buffett has dubbed "Woodstock for Capitalism." Close to 40,000 shareholders were expected to attend this year.
Buffett on Saturday also said that he recently considered a more than $20 billion acquisition, and would have sold some Berkshire stock holdings he wanted to keep to get it done. Continued...