Investment icon and Warren Buffett’s trusted associate, Charlie Munger, passes away at 99

Charlie Munger

29th November 2023 – (California) The legendary Charlie Munger, a billionaire investor renowned for his wisdom and philanthropy, and famously known as the right-hand man of Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway, has passed away at the age of 99.

The announcement of his death was made by Berkshire Hathaway through a press statement, stating that Munger departed peacefully at a California hospital on Tuesday. The celebrated investor was set to celebrate his 100th birthday on New Year’s Day.

“Charlie’s contribution to the growth and success of Berkshire Hathaway is unparalleled. His wisdom, inspiration, and active participation have been instrumental in shaping the conglomerate,” said Buffett, honouring his longtime business partner and friend.

Munger’s illustrious career was not confined to Berkshire Hathaway, where he served as vice chairman. He was a man with many hats, including a real estate attorney, the chairman and publisher of the Daily Journal Corp., a member of the Costco board, a philanthropist, and even an architect.

Despite his impressive fortune, estimated at $2.3 billion in early 2023, Munger’s wealth was a fraction of Buffett’s colossal fortune, estimated to be over $100 billion. However, his influence and impact far outweighed the disparity in their wealth.

During a 2021 shareholders meeting, Munger unexpectedly revealed a closely guarded secret, hinting that Vice Chairman Greg Abel would be the one to carry on Berkshire’s culture in the post-Buffett era.

Munger had to overcome significant personal challenges, including losing his left eye due to complications from cataract surgery in 1980. Despite these obstacles, he continued to contribute significantly to the investment world, notably as chairman and CEO of Wesco Financial from 1984 to 2011. The company, based in Pasadena, California, was an insurance and investment firm, which was eventually fully acquired by Buffett’s Berkshire.

Buffett has often credited Munger for shifting his investing perspective. Munger moved Buffett away from investing in struggling businesses in the hope of turning a profit, to focusing on high-quality, undervalued companies.

Munger’s strategy was exemplified in 1972 when he convinced Buffett to invest $25 million in See’s Candies, which had annual pretax earnings of only about $4 million at the time. This investment, although seeming risky, has since generated over $2 billion in sales for Berkshire.

Munger, born Charles Thomas Munger on January 1, 1924, was the son of a lawyer father and an affluent mother. He was born and raised in Omaha, coincidentally, just like Buffett. They both even worked at Buffett’s grandfather’s grocery store as young men, although they didn’t meet until much later.

Throughout his life, Munger generously donated to educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Stanford University, and Harvard Law School. He often included the stipulation that the institutions adopt his building designs, despite not being formally trained as an architect.

Munger leaves behind a rich legacy, not just in the world of investing, but also in philanthropy, architecture, and most importantly, in the wisdom he shared. His approach to a happy life was simple: avoid envy and resentment, live within your means, stay cheerful despite troubles, deal with reliable people, and fulfil your duties.