Warren Buffett ally Charlie Munger dies aged 99

29 November 2023, 10:04

Charlie Munger
Obit Munger. Picture: PA

Mr Munger helped build Berkshire Hathaway into an investment powerhouse.

Charlie Munger, who helped Warren Buffett build Berkshire Hathaway into an investment powerhouse, has died aged 99.

Berkshire Hathaway said in a statement that Mr Munger’s family told the company that he died on Tuesday morning at a California hospital just over a month before his 100th birthday.

Mr Buffett said in a statement: “Berkshire Hathaway could not have been built to its present status without Charlie’s inspiration, wisdom and participation.”

The famous investor also devoted part of his annual letter to Berkshire shareholders earlier this year to a tribute to Mr Munger.

He served as Mr Buffett’s sounding board on investments and business decisions and helped lead Berkshire for more than five decades and served as its long-time vice chairman.

Mr Munger had been using a wheelchair to get around for several years but he had remained mentally sharp.

Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger
Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger had a formidable partnership (AP)

That was on display while he fielded hours of questions at the annual meetings of Berkshire and the Daily Journal Corp earlier this year, and in recent interviews on an investing podcast and also with The Wall Street Journal and CNBC.

Mr Munger preferred to stay in the background and let Mr Buffett be the face of Berkshire, and he often downplayed his contributions to the company’s remarkable success.

But Mr Buffett always credited Mr Munger with pushing him beyond his early value investing strategies to buy great businesses at good prices like See’s Candy.

“Charlie has taught me a lot about valuing businesses and about human nature,” Mr Buffett said in 2008.

Mr Buffett’s early successes were based on what he learned from former Columbia University professor Ben Graham. He would buy stock in companies that were selling cheaply for less than their assets were worth, and then, when the market price improved, sell the shares.

Mr Munger and Mr Buffett began buying Berkshire Hathaway shares in 1962 for seven and eight dollars per share, and they took control of the New England textile mill in 1965.

Over time, the two men reshaped Berkshire into the conglomerate it is today by using proceeds from its businesses to buy other companies like Geico insurance and BNSF railroad, while also maintaining a high-profile stock portfolio with major investments in Apple and Coca-Cola.

The shares had grown to 546,869 dollars (£432,157) on Tuesday, and many investors became wealthy by holding onto the stock.

Mr Munger gave an extended interview to CNBC earlier this month in preparation for his 100th birthday, and the business network showed clips from that Tuesday. In his characteristic self-deprecating manner, Mr Munger summed up the secret to Berkshire’s success as avoiding mistakes and continuing to work well into his and Mr Buffett’s 90s.

Munger and Buffett
Mr Munger was content to see Mr Buffett take a more central role (AP)

“We got a little less crazy than most people and a little less stupid than most people and that really helped us,” Mr Munger said.

During the entire time they worked together, Mr Buffett and Mr Munger lived more than 1,500 miles apart, but Mr Buffett said he would call Mr Munger in Los Angeles or Pasadena to consult on every major decision he made.

Edward Jones analyst Jim Shanahan said: “He will be greatly missed by many, perhaps by nobody more than Mr Buffett, who relied heavily on his wisdom and counsel. I was envious of their friendship. They challenged each other yet seemed to really enjoy being in each other’s company.”

Mr Munger built a fortune worth more than two billion dollars at one point and earned a spot on the list of the richest Americans. His wealth decreased over time as he gave more of his fortune away, but the ever increasing value of Berkshire’s stock kept him wealthy.

He has given significant gifts to Harvard-Westlake, Stanford University Law School, the University of Michigan and the Huntington Library as well as other charities.

The investor also gave a significant portion of his Berkshire stock to his eight children after his second wife Nancy died in 2010.

By Press Association

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