How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

Behind Richard Rainwater's fight for his life

November 7, 2011: 10:31 AM ET

Richard Rainwater is one of the most vital men I've ever met. Michael Eisner, the former CEO of Walt Disney (DIS), described the Texas billionaire to me this way: "Of anybody I ever met, Richard was the most charismatic, the most outgoing, most hands-on, huggy, high-fiving, jumping-up-and-down, vivacious executive."

So it is terribly ironic and terribly cruel to see Rainwater, a self-made success and one of the greatest dealmakers ever, suffering from a brain disease called PSP. Before two years ago, when he was diagnosed and I heard whispers from his friends that he was very sick, I had never heard of PSP. Neither had Rainwater. PSP stands for progressive supranuclear palsy. As it turns out, it is, according to certain measures by experts of degenerative brain diseases, the worst disease that you can get. Eisner said this to me about the brilliant dealmaker with the quick and beautiful mind: "To have him relegated to this condition that incapacitates him? It's the irony of human existence."

For me, it was a thrill—a poignant thrill—to tell the definitive story of Richard Rainwater. I had first met him in 1997 when I wrote a cover story about his wife Darla, The Toughest Babe in Business—and it was fascinating to reconnect with her as my Fortune colleague Peter Elkind and I partnered on this story. (Darla nicknamed us P-squared.) Not only is Peter a renowned investigative reporter (he co-wrote the Enron book, The Smartest Guys in the Room). He is also a resident of Fort Worth, Rainwater's hometown. So it was an honor all around. And while it is awkward to tell you to "enjoy" The Fight of Richard Rainwater's Life, there is plenty of joy and inspiration in this story. The fun-loving Rainwater himself would want you to enjoy his story, so click here and please do.

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