Charlie Munger, Berkshire Hathaway’s vice chairman and Warren Buffet’s right-hand man has died at age 99. The Billionaire investing genius would have turned 100 on New Year’s Day.
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His death was confirmed in a news release from Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate he helped to build.
“Berkshire Hathaway a few minutes ago was advised by members of Charlie Munger’s family that he peacefully died this morning at a California hospital,” the statement read.
Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway said “Berkshire Hathaway could not have been built to its present status without Charlie’s inspiration, wisdom and participation.”
Munger’s fortune was estimated at US$2.3 billion in early 2023, according to a report by CNBC.
In addition to being the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Charlie Munger was a real estate attorney, chairman and publisher of the Daily Journal Corp., a member of the Costco board, a philanthropist and an architect.
Munger was chairman and CEO of Wesco Financial from 1984 to 2011, when Buffett’s Berkshire purchased the remaining shares of the Pasadena, California-based insurance and investment company it did not own.
Buffett credited Munger with broadening his investment strategy from favoring troubled companies at low prices in hopes of getting a profit to focusing on higher-quality but underpriced companies.
“He weaned me away from the idea of buying very so-so companies at very cheap prices, knowing that there was some small profit in it, and looking for some really wonderful businesses that we could buy in fair prices,” Buffett told CNBC in May 2016.
Or as Munger put it at the 1998 Berkshire shareholder meeting: “It’s not that much fun to buy a business where you really hope this sucker liquidates before it goes broke.”
CNBC reported that an early example of the shift was illustrated in 1972 by Munger’s ability to persuade Buffett to sign off on Berkshire’s purchase of See’s Candies for $25 million even though the California candy maker had annual pretax earnings of only about $4 million. It has since produced more than $2 billion in sales for Berkshire.
Charlie Munger’s life – credit CNBC
Like Warren, Munger worked at Buffett’s grandfather’s grocery store as a youth, but the two future joined-at-the-hip partners didn’t meet until years later.
At 17, Munger left Omaha for the University of Michigan. Two years later, in 1943, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, according to Janet Lowe’s 2003 biography “Damn Right!”
The military sent him to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena to study meteorology. In California, he fell in love with his sister’s roommate at Scripps College, Nancy Huggins, and married her in 1945.
Although he never completed his undergraduate degree, Munger graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1948, and the couple moved back to California, where he practiced real estate law.
In 1959, at age 35, Munger returned to Omaha to close his late father’s legal practice. That’s when he was introduced to the then-29-year-old Buffett by one of Buffett’s investor clients. The two hit it off and stayed in contact despite living half a continent away from each other.
He founded the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson in 1962 and focused on managing investments at the hedge fund Wheeler, Munger & Co., which he also founded that year.
In California, he partnered with Franklin Otis Booth, a member of the founding family of the Los Angeles Times, in real estate. One of their early developments turned out to be a lucrative condo project on Booth’s grandfather’s property in Pasadena. (Booth, who died in 2008, had been introduced to Buffett by Munger in 1963 and became one of Berkshire’s largest investors.)
Munger closed the hedge fund in 1975. Three years later, he became vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.
Munger donated hundreds of millions of dollars to educational institutions, including the University of Michigan, Stanford University and Harvard Law School, often with the stipulation that the school accept his building designs, even though he was not formally trained as an architect.
Munger and his wife had three children, daughters Wendy and Molly, and son Teddy, who died of leukemia at age 9. The Mungers divorced in 1953.
Two years later, he married Nancy Barry, whom he met on a blind date at a chicken dinner restaurant. The couple had four children, Charles Jr., Emilie, Barry and Philip. He also was the stepfather to her two other sons, William Harold Borthwick and David Borthwick.
The Mungers, who were married 54 years until her death in 2010, contributed $43.5 million to Stanford University to help build the Munger Graduate Residence, which houses 600 law and graduate students.
Nnamdi Maduakor is a Writer, Investor and Entrepreneur