Charlie Munger was Warren Buffett’s assistant for more than four decades as he transformed Berkshire Hathaway from a failing textile manufacturer into a spectacularly successful investment empire.
Mungar died on Tuesday at the age of 99, following which businessmen, financiers and politicians paid tribute to him.
While Buffett was the star of the show, Munger’s influence on Berkshire went far beyond his vice chairmanship.
Buffett said, ‘Berkshire Hathaway could not have been built to its current position without Charlie’s inspiration, knowledge and participation.’
Munger worked closely with Buffett on investment decisions, with Berkshire owning hundreds of billions of dollars of stock, including Apple, Coca-Cola and Bank of America, as well as ownership of BNSF Railroad and Geico insurer.
Investment legend Charlie Munger (pictured) died on Tuesday at the age of 99, prompting tributes from businessmen, financiers and politicians.
Known as the John Lennon and Paul McCartney of the investment world, under his management Berkshire achieved an average annual return of 20 percent from 1965 to 2022 – nearly double the return of the S&P 500.
The results made the couple heroes among billionaires and their favorite investors.
Apple boss Tim Cook, in a post on X, described Munger as a “business legend and keen observer of the world around him” who “has helped build an American institution.”
Brian Moynihan, chief executive of Bank of America, said: ‘Charlie Munger was a legendary figure in the investment community.’
Howard Marks, co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management, said: ‘He was a real polymath, very well read in a huge number of areas, and he used analogies from them when discussing investments.
‘There were very few things you could talk about that he didn’t know more about than you.’
Manger was instrumental in steering his partner away from buying what Buffett called ‘cigar butts’ – mediocre companies that had a lot of smoke left and could be bought at very cheap prices.
‘Forget what you know about buying reasonable businesses at wonderful prices, instead buy wonderful businesses at reasonable prices,’ Munger regularly reminded Buffett.
But it was his sharp intellect that endeared him so much to Berkshire’s shareholders and followers.
His comments were pithy and entertaining, but they had a more serious point of exposing verbose, confusing corporate jargon.
At Berkshire’s 2017 annual meeting, known as the ‘Woodstock for capitalists’, he told shareholders: ‘Every time you see the word ‘EBITDA’, you have to replace it with the word bullsh*t earnings. Needed.’
Double act: Munger (pictured with Buffett) had far more influence on Berkshire than his vice chairmanship
He was also not averse to giving some life advice, and in 2004 he quipped: ‘You want to avoid bad or seriously irrational people, especially if they’re attractive members of the opposite sex. This can cause a lot of trouble.
Buffett said of Munger’s conduct: ‘Miss Manners clearly needs a lot of work on Charlie.’
He was a vocal critic of corporate misconduct, describing the compensation packages given to some chief executives as ‘insane’ and ‘unethical’.
His own wealth was estimated at £2 billion, far less than Buffett’s wealth, which is more than £80 billion.
He called Bitcoin a ‘harmful poison’ and a ‘fraud and partly an illusion’, and warned that much of banking had become ‘dramatic gambling’.
A lawyer by training, Munger met Buffett in 1959 at the age of 35, when he returned to Omaha to close his late father’s law practice.
One of Buffett’s investor clients introduced him to Buffett, who was then 29 years old.
The two men hit it off and remained in touch, with Buffett repeatedly encouraging Munger to take the leap into the world of investing, telling him that ‘law as a hobby is fine, but he can do better.’ ‘
Munger eventually established his own investment partnership, Wheeler, Munger & Company, before joining the board of Berkshire Hathaway in 1978.
Buffett said in 2018, ‘Since we have known each other, which is almost 60 years now, we have never had any argument.’
When Manger did not attend a special meeting of Berkshire shareholders in 2010, Buffett brought a cardboard cutout of his partner to the stage and, mimicking Manger, said: ‘I couldn’t agree more.’
Munger has left the company in safe hands. Berkshire has two other chairmen, Greg Abel and Ajit Jain, who oversee its day-to-day businesses and Abel was named by Buffett as his successor in 2021.
His wisdom and intelligence…
Capitalism without failure is like religion without hell
I don’t think you can trust the bankers to control themselves. they’re like heroin addicts
In investing we have three baskets: yes, no and very difficult to understand.
Always choose the high road, it is less crowded there
No person is fit to hold office who is not willing to resign at any time
We recognized early on that smart people do a lot of stupid things
Three things ruin people: drugs, alcohol, drug addiction
Remember that reputation and integrity are your most valuable assets and can be lost in a heartbeat.
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