The business community deeply mourns the loss of Charles T. Munger, a colossus in the realms of investment and business, who passed away on November 28, 2023, at the age of 99. Renowned as the vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and Warren Buffett’s indispensable colleague, Munger’s legacy is monumental, transcending his partnership with Buffett.
Early Life and Ascendancy to Berkshire Hathaway
Born on January 1, 1924, Munger’s life was a testament to diligence and extraordinary intellect. His early years included time at Buffett’s grandfather’s grocery store in Omaha, followed by service as a meteorologist in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.
Despite an initial educational setback at the University of Michigan, he excelled at Harvard Law School, graduating in 1948. In Los Angeles, he co-founded the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson, before venturing into the worlds of stock investments and real estate.
Munger and Buffett: A Legendary Alliance
The partnership between Munger and Buffett, formalized in 1975 at Berkshire Hathaway, merged two unique but harmonious investment ideologies. Munger, through his firm Wheeler, Munger & Co., had outshone the market from 1962 to 1975. His meeting with Buffett in 1959 sparked a collaboration that would catapult Berkshire into a colossal conglomerate.
Defining Berkshire Hathaway’s Course
Munger’s role in sculpting Berkshire Hathaway’s trajectory was pivotal. He championed investments in undervalued but fundamentally robust companies. Key acquisitions under his guidance included BNSF railroad and H.J. Heinz Co. His foresight was evident in Berkshire’s investment in BYD Co., a Chinese firm specializing in automobiles and batteries.
The Munger Investment Ethos
A staunch advocate of value investing, Munger, alongside Buffett, sought out well-managed companies with undervalued stocks, often retaining their stakes for many years. Munger once said, “The big money is not in the buying and selling … but in the waiting.” His investment strategy favored a concentrated portfolio of thoroughly understood stocks, aiming for superior long-term returns.
An Outspoken Critic of Cryptocurrency
Munger’s views on cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin, were sharply critical. He infamously described Bitcoin as “turd” and likened the cryptocurrency boom to gambling. Munger’s firm stance on cryptocurrencies extended to advocating for their prohibition.
The Indelible Munger Legacy
At his passing, Munger was worth an estimated $2.6 billion. However, his true legacy lies in his influence. As Buffett’s closest ally, he was pivotal in defining Berkshire Hathaway’s investment philosophy and culture. His candid, often humorous observations on investing, economics, and human behavior were highly esteemed in the business realm.
The Impact of Munger’s Departure
Munger’s death leaves a profound void in the investment world. His collaboration with Buffett was among the most successful in business history. His unique insights and investment acumen were central to Berkshire Hathaway’s expansion. As the investment community and Berkshire Hathaway grapple with this loss, Munger’s wisdom and principles will undoubtedly continue to shape future decisions and strategies.
Charles T. Munger: A Legacy of Wisdom and Insight
Charlie Munger’s life and career are a testament to the power of intellect, perseverance, and a profound grasp of investment and human psychology. His contributions to Berkshire Hathaway and the wider investment landscape will be revered and studied by future generations of investors and business leaders.