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Warren Buffett seeks to reassure shareholders

The 81-year-old investor, who was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, tells his company's annual meeting that he's feeling good but has a successor standing by.

May 06, 2012
  • Warren Buffett, chief executive of Berskhire Hathaway, tours the exhibit floor at the company's annual shareholders meeting in Omaha, Neb.
Warren Buffett, chief executive of Berskhire Hathaway, tours the exhibit… (Dave Weaver, Associated…)

OMAHA, Neb. — Warren Buffett worked to reassure shareholders that he's feeling good after his recent prostate cancer diagnosis, and that Berkshire Hathaway is ready to replace the revered 81-year-old investor when the need arises.

Based on the questions Buffett got from the crowd of more than 30,000 at the company's annual meeting in Omaha on Saturday, Berkshire shareholders are taking him at his word.

Although Buffett just disclosed the condition last month, he didn't face the first question about his health until well into Saturday's questioning.

"I may have a little less energy, but that may mean I do fewer dumb things," he said jokingly.

Buffett told shareholders in this year's annual letter that the board had picked someone to succeed him as chief executive if the need arises immediately, and that it has two backup candidates. But Buffett hasn't publicly identified his successor. During the business portion of the meeting, Berkshire shareholders overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would have required annual updates on how the company is preparing to replace Buffett.

However, Buffett did address a challenge that his successor may face and talked about the way his successor would approach the job.

One of the first questions of the day was about whether his successor would be able to make the same kind of deals he had, such as the $8 billion Berkshire invested in preferred shares ofGoldman Sachs Group Inc.andGeneral Electric Co.during the crisis of 2008. Goldman and GE both wanted Buffett's stamp of approval along with Berkshire's money.

"I don't think that every deal I have made could be makeable by a successor," Buffett said.

But Buffett said his successor would still be able to make big deals because Berkshire had nearly $40 billion in cash on hand and was willing to invest large amounts quickly.

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