Remembering Charlie Munger

Nov 29, 2023
This article initially appeared on and has been written by William Watts of MarketWatch

Charles Munger, the plain-spoken vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway often described as billionaire Warren Buffett's right-hand man, died Tuesday at the age 99.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said in a news release that it had been informed by Munger's family of his death in California.

"Berkshire Hathaway could not have been built to its present status without Charlie's inspiration, wisdom and participation," said Buffett, Berkshire's CEO.

While he spent decades at Buffett's side, Munger attracted a cult following of his own. His often pithy -- and not infrequently controversial -- pronouncements have spawned countless lists, while his own success as an investor inspired more than a handful of investing books.

Munger, born Jan. 1, 1924 in Omaha, was more than seven years older than Buffett. Munger grew up not far from his future colleague, though the two didn't meet until they were both adults. As a youth, Munger worked at Buffett and Son, the grocery operated by Buffett's grandfather.

When the two finally did meet, in 1959, they became fast friends.

"When I first met Warren, I recognized immediately that he was a very intelligent person," Munger said in an interview for a 2017 HBO documentary, noting that they had a shared interest in investing and similar senses of humor. "We had a high old time, probably making ourselves obnoxious to other people in the room."

From the archives (October 2021): 'I'd rather be a billionaire and not be loved by everybody': Charlie Munger shrugs off controversy over $200M donation for nearly windowless dorm.

For his part, Buffett once said he and Munger thought so much alike it was "spooky." Munger and Buffett had worked together since 1978, when Munger left his own investment firm to join Berkshire Hathaway as vice chairman.

In the 1960s, partly at Buffett's urging, Munger hung up his law practice to become a full-time investor. Explaining his motivation, Munger said he had a "considerable passion to get rich," according to journalist Roger Lowenstein's Buffett biography. "Not because I wanted Ferraris -- I wanted the independence," Munger said. "I desperately wanted it. I thought it was undignified to have to send invoices to other people."

Munger apparently made the right choice. Working side by side, Buffett and Munger built Berkshire Hathaway into the juggernaut it is today. Munger's net worth was estimated at $2.5 billion in June by Forbes, while Buffett, who at times has held the title of world's richest person, has built a fortune of around $117 billion.

Munger, however, was hardly a clone of Buffett. Where Buffett's folksy charm was buttressed by a certain sense of optimism, Munger made much of playing the pessimist. A Munger lecture titled "The Psychology of Human Misjudgment" has long served as a touchstone for self-reflective investors.

This content was created by MarketWatch, which is operated by Dow Jones & Co. MarketWatch is published independently from Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal.  

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