Feeling the Pain
NEW YORK ( Real Money ) -- Amid a bunch of routine first-quarter 2012 earnings releases from Intel (INTC) , IBM (IBM) and others and after the close of trading, Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK.A) /(BRK.B) Warren Buffett announced that he had stage-one prostate cancer. He noted that he "was told by his doctors that his condition "is not remotely life-threatening or even debilitating in any meaningful way."
Here is the company's press release.
My initial response was that I was shocked, and I recognized that this was potentially a very sad and sobering event for Buffett and his family.
I was also shaken, for my mind wandered to some personal memories of my dear (and far-too-young) friends who lost their lives to cancer over the past couple of years: my best pal Petie Lane, TheStreet's own David Morrow, Sanford Bernstein's Jonathan Gray and, most recently, my horse partner and my buddy Andy Grant.
My first thought was that I wanted Warren Buffett to be healthy and to beat the cancer. After all, the avuncular Oracle is an investment icon to me and legions of investors. Moreover, he is enormously charitable and is often a rational voice in a sometimes irrational world (on economics, politics and business). For four decades, I have enjoyed and cherished his annual letters -- especially his quotes (Mae West, Woody Allen, etc.) and sports metaphors (in particular his ample use of Yogi Berra-isms).
Though obviously saddened by the surprise announcement, quite frankly in short order, as I suppose was the reaction of many other Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, my next order of business was to figure out the consequences of the report on Buffett's health on the company's share price. (I had just discussed why Berkshire Hathaway was among my favorite stocks and largest holdings in Monday's "Fast Money Halftime Report.")
I detached myself from the emotional impact of Buffett's announcement and found myself grappling with tables from the U.S. Census Bureau, indicating that a white man in his early 80s in America has about a seven- to eight-year life expectancy (Table 107. Expectation of Life and Expected Deaths by Race, Sex, and Age: 2008).
As Whitney Tilson reminded me in an email, "Buffett isn't average -- he is active (mentally and to a lesser extent physically) and he is surrounded by loved ones, he has low stress, wears a seat belt, etc., etc., etc." Plug those factors into this website , and Whitney argued that "you'll see that the average person with Buffett's characteristics has a 12-year life expectancy."
As I mentioned on "Fast Money" and as I have repeatedly written in columns on Berkshire on Real Money Pro , Berkshire's valuation has declined as: