Billionaire investor and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRKa, BRKb) Warren Buffett revealed Tuesday that he has been diagnosed with stage I prostate cancer.
In a letter to Berkshire shareholders, the 81-year old Buffett said he has been told by his doctors that his condition is "not remotely lifethreatening or even debilitating in any meaningful way."
Buffett said he discovered the cancer because his PSA level recently jumped beyond its normal elevation, warranting a biopsy. He said he received his diagnosis last Wednesday, and then had a CAT scan and a bone scan the next day, followed by an MRI today.
Buffet said that he and his doctors have decided on a two-month treatment of daily radiation to start in mid-July.
The "Oracle of Omaha" concluded his letter with the notion, "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."
Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system. Most prostate cancers are slow growing; however, there are cases of aggressive prostate cancers.
The age and underlying health of the man, the extent of metastasis, appearance under the microscope and response of the cancer to initial treatment are important in determining the outcome of the disease.
According to American Cancer Society, more than 2 million men in the US count themselves as prostate cancer survivors. Some well-known persons who were diagnosed with prostate cancer and are surviving include former South African president Nelson Mandela, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and former U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell.
However, the news of Buffett's illness is bound to create panic among Berkshire investors. It will also intensify speculations about Buffet's successor.
Last month, Buffett said the Berkshire board has identified an individual to succeed him as CEO. The only information Buffett gave was that the person was for a long time seen as a potential candidate by the board. The incumbent would be from one of heads of Berkshire's operating companies.
Investors see one among the three Berkshire executives as the possible successor to Buffett, namely, Ajit Jain, Berkshire's reinsurance head; Matt Rose, the head of the company's railroad operation; and Gregory Abel, the head of Berkshire's MidAmerican Energy.
Buffett, who is also one of the world's richest men, has run Berkshire for nearly five decades. He owns more than $40 billion of stock in Berkshire, which has has over 80 units with businesses as varied as insurance, restaurants, furniture, clothing, candy companies, natural gas, railroad and corporate jet leasing. Berkshire also holds significant stakes in many top-notch companies such as Coca-Cola Co. (KO), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), American Express Co. (AEP) and Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) among others.
The news of Buffett's illness also comes a day after Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked the "Buffett rule," a tax on millionaires that was based on Buffett's idea that the rich should pay more income tax.
Berkshire's Class A shares closed Tuesday's regular trading session at $121,310, up $1,785 or 1.49%, but lost $2,210 or 1.82% in after hours trading. The company's Class B shares closed the day's session at $80.76, up $1.09 or 1.37%, but lost 90 cents or 1.11% in after hours trading.
by RTT Staff Writer
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