Charlie Munger, the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and the longtime partner of Warren Buffett, died on November 28, 2023, at the age of 99. Munger was widely regarded as one of the most influential and successful investors of all time, as well as a generous philanthropist and a source of wisdom for millions of people.
Charlie Munger: Warren Buffett’s Trusted Right-Hand Man
Early life and education
Munger was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on January 1, 1924. He worked at Buffett & Son, a grocery store owned by Buffett’s grandfather, as a teenager. He studied mathematics at the University of Michigan, but dropped out to join the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. He later studied meteorology at Caltech and law at Harvard, graduating magna cum laude in 1948.
Munger started his career as a lawyer in California, but soon realized that he was more interested in investing. He founded his own investment partnership in 1962, which achieved an annualized return of 19.8% over 13 years. He met Buffett in 1959, and they became close friends and business partners. Munger joined Berkshire Hathaway as vice chairman in 1978, and helped Buffett transform the company from a struggling textile manufacturer into a diversified conglomerate with a market capitalization of over $700 billion.
Munger was known for his multidisciplinary approach to investing, which involved applying concepts from various fields such as psychology, physics, and mathematics to evaluate potential investments. He advocated for a value investing style that focused on finding high-quality businesses with durable competitive advantages, strong management, and fair prices. He also emphasized the importance of avoiding mistakes, being rational, and having a long-term perspective.
Munger’s Impact on Berkshire Hathaway
Role as vice chairman
Munger served as the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway for 45 years, and was widely considered as Buffett’s right-hand man. He played a key role in many of the company’s major acquisitions and investments, such as GEICO, General Re, Coca-Cola, American Express, and Apple. He also influenced the company’s culture and values, which emphasized integrity, frugality, and social responsibility.
Contributions to the company’s success
Munger’s contributions to Berkshire Hathaway’s success were immense. Under his and Buffett’s leadership, the company’s book value grew at an average rate of 20% per year, compared to 10% for the S&P 500 index. Munger also helped Buffett expand his investment horizon and diversify his portfolio, by introducing him to new industries and sectors, such as technology, consumer goods, and utilities. Munger also provided valuable insights and feedback to Buffett, as well as a sense of humor and humility.
Legacy and Future of Berkshire Hathaway Without Munger
Philanthropy and wealth
Munger was a generous philanthropist, who donated more than $200 million to various causes, such as education, health, and science. He also pledged to give away most of his wealth, which was estimated at $1.9 billion, to charity. He was especially passionate about supporting the University of Michigan, Caltech, and Harvard Law School, where he funded scholarships, professorships, and buildings.
Munger was also interested in architecture, and designed several buildings and structures, such as dormitories, libraries, and bridges. He had a unique style that combined functionality, aesthetics, and durability. He also funded the construction of many of his projects, such as the Munger Graduate Residence at Stanford University, the Munger Physics Residence at Caltech, and the Munger Center at Harvard Law School.
Munger was married twice, and had seven children, four from his first marriage and three from his second. His first wife, Nancy Huggins, divorced him in 1953, and his second wife, Nancy Borthwick, died in 2010. He also suffered several tragedies in his life, such as the death of his son Teddy from leukemia in 1955, and the loss of his eye from cataract surgery in 2010. He remained resilient and optimistic throughout his life, and enjoyed reading, playing chess, and spending time with his family and friends.
Remembering Charlie Munger: Tributes and Reflections
Munger’s death was mourned by many people, who expressed their admiration and gratitude for his life and work. Some of the tributes and reflections are:
- Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, said in a statement: “Charlie was the most independent thinker in the world. He was my closest partner and right-hand man for more than half a century. Berkshire Hathaway could not have been built to its present status without Charlie’s inspiration, wisdom, and participation. He was also a wonderful friend and mentor to me and countless others. I will miss him dearly.”
- Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and friend of Munger, tweeted: “Charlie Munger was a brilliant investor, a generous philanthropist, and a source of endless wisdom. I learned so much from him over the years, and I’m grateful for his friendship. His legacy will live on in the minds and hearts of millions of people.”
- Tim Cook, CEO of Apple and partner of Berkshire Hathaway, tweeted: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Charlie Munger, a visionary leader and a true legend in the business world. He was a great supporter of Apple and a valued partner of Berkshire Hathaway. His insights and advice were invaluable to us and many others. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”
- Howard Marks, co-founder and co-chairman of Oaktree Capital Management and admirer of Munger, wrote in a memo: “Charlie Munger was one of the greatest investors of all time, and one of the most influential thinkers of our era. He taught us how to think better, invest smarter, and live happier. He was a role model for me and many others, and a generous benefactor to society. He was also a witty and charming person, who always spoke his mind and made us laugh. He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.”
Charlie Munger was a remarkable man, who left a lasting impact on the world of investing, business, and philanthropy. He was a partner and friend of Warren Buffett, and a vice chairman and leader of Berkshire Hathaway. He was also a multidisciplinary thinker, a value investor, and a learning machine. He faced many challenges and hardships in his life, but he overcame them with courage and hope. He was a man of integrity, humility, and generosity, who inspired and helped millions of people. He was a legend, who will be remembered and honored for generations to come.