Billionaire Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s right-hand man at Berkshire Hathaway, has died at age 99, just a few days short of his 100th birthday.
Munger, who was as much of an investing sage as the ‘Oracle of Omaha’ Buffett, died Tuesday, according to a press release from Berkshire Hathaway.
The conglomerate said it was advised by members of Munger’s family that he peacefully died this morning at a California hospital. He would have turned 100 on New Year’s Day.
“Berkshire Hathaway could not have been built to its present status without Charlie’s inspiration, wisdom and participation,” Buffett said in a statement.
In addition to being vice chairman at Berkshire Hathaway, Munger was a real estate attorney, chairman and publisher of the Daily Journal Corp.
Mr Munger was also a member of the board at Costco, apart from being a philanthropist and an architect.
In early 2023, his fortune was estimated at $2.3 billion.
From 1984 to 2011, Mr Munger was Chairman and CEO of Wesco Financial, where Buffett’s Berkshire was a major shareholder .
Berkshire later purchased the remaining shares of the Pasadena, California-based insurance and investment company.
Buffett credited Munger with broadening his investment strategy with a focus on higher-quality but undervalued companies.
Buffett told CNBC in May 2016 that Munger helped change his outlook, eschewing buying stock in so-so companies at very cheap prices, with smaller profit margins, instead turning focus to businesses that could be bought at fair prices.
Munger was often more strait-laced than Buffett was, while not as loqucious as his legendary partner, Munger was not lacking in wit.
‘We think so much alike that it’s spooky,’ Buffett would recall in an interview with the Omaha World-Herald in 1977.
Buffett’s trademark witty responses to questions at the famed Berkshire annual meetings stood in stark contrast to Munger’s quiet demeanour.
Munger was as knowledgeable though and had interesting insights into life and investing.
In one of many quotable quotes, Munger said at Berkshire’s 2017 meeting, ‘I have a friend who says the first rule of fishing is to fish where the fish are. The second rule of fishing is to never forget the first rule. We’ve gotten good at fishing where the fish are.’
Munger was born in Omaha, Nebraska on Jan. 1, 1924 to Alfred, a lawyer, and Florence.
Munger worked at Buffett’s grandfather’s grocery store when he was young, but the two didn’t become close friends and partners until much later in life.
At 17, Munger left Omaha for the University of Michigan.
In 1943, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, and then attended the prestigious California Institute of Technology in Pasadena to study meteorology.
He didn’t complete his undergraduate studies, instead going on to practice real estate law. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1948.
Munger went on to found the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson in 1962 and then shifted focus to managing investments at the hedge fund Wheeler, Munger & Co.
Munger, like Buffett, prided himself on his mid-western values. With a focus on strong family values, helping others during troubles, Munger extolled the virtues of being prudent, sensible and upholding one’s moral duty to be reasonable, which he considered ‘more important than anything else — more important than being rich, more important than being important — an absolute moral duty.’
In 1959, at age 35, Munger returned to Omaha and was introduced to Buffett by one of Buffett’s clients. The two stayed in touch and formed one of the most enduring partnerships in finance.
Buffett told CNBC in 2018, ‘Charlie has given me the ultimate gift that a person can give to somebody else. He’s made me a better person than I would have otherwise been. … He’s given me a lot of good advice over time. … I’ve lived a better life because of Charlie.’
Munger donated hundreds of millions of dollars to educational institutions, including the University of Michigan, Stanford University and Harvard Law School and was on the board at Harvard-Westlake prep school.
Munger and his wife divorced in 1953. They had three children.
Two years later, he married Nancy Barry and had four children, Charles Jr., Emilie, Barry and Philip.
They were married 54 years until Barry’s death in 2010.
Asked in a CNBC interview about the secret to a long and happy life, Munger said the answer ‘is easy, because it’s so simple.’
‘You don’t have a lot of envy, you don’t have a lot of resentment, you don’t overspend your income, you stay cheerful in spite of your troubles. You deal with reliable people and you do what you’re supposed to do. And all these simple rules work so well to make your life better. And they’re so trite,’ he said.
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