May 5, 2012 at 2:26 PM ET
Weeks after revealing that he has prostate cancer, billionaire investor Warren Buffett tried to reassure thousands of investors Saturday that his Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate will be in good hands after he steps down.
Buffett, 81, addressed nearly 40,000 shareholders at the company’s colorful annual meeting in his hometown of Omaha, Neb., saying his condition is not life-threatening and should not have much effect on his work.
"I feel terrific,” Buffett said.
“Maybe I'll get shot by a jealous husband,” he joked. “This is a really minor event."
Buffett’s longtime partner and vice chairman, Charlie Munger, 88, joked that he resents the sympathy and attention Buffett is getting. “I probably have more prostate cancer than he does,” he said.
But the diagnosis was one more reminder that the so-called Oracle of Omaha is mortal and will be hard to replace. Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire, has said he has identified a successor, although he has not identified him publicly.
"I don't think that every deal that I made would necessarily be makeable by a successor, but they'll bring other talents as well," said Buffett. He reassured the audience, which packed a downtown arena and overflow rooms, that his successor would have the skills required to handle the job.
"We're not going to have an arts major in charge of Berkshire,” he said.
Among the internal candidates seen as possible future Berkshire chief executives are Ajit Jain, Buffett's top insurance lieutenant; Matthew Rose, who runs the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad company; and Greg Abel, who oversees the utility company MidAmerican Energy.
As Buffett roamed the exhibit hall, shareholders mobbed him, trying to take pictures with their cellphones. He spent time singing"There is No Place Like Nebraska" with the University of Nebraska's cheerleaders at the Justin Boots stage before checking out the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad and BYD electric car displays.
Later Berkshire shareholders were treated to a video skit in which Buffett joked about the fame his secretary Debbie Bosanek gained after the billionaire complained that she pays a higher tax rate than he does.
Berkshire owns clothing, furniture, railroad, insurance, jewelry and utility businesses. It also has major investments in such companies as Coca-Cola Co., IBM and Wells Fargo & Co. On Friday, Berkshire said its first-quarter profit more than doubled to $3.2 billion from last year's $1.5 billion because this year's results weren't hurt by major disaster losses in Berkshire's insurance units.
Berkshire’s main Class A shares, the costliest on the New York Stock Exchange, gained $150 Friday to close at $121,950.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this story.