Charles Munger, renowned as the ‘Oracle of Pasadena’ and Warren Buffett’s second-in-command at Berkshire Hathaway Inc., passed away peacefully on Tuesday morning at a California hospital. Munger, born on January 1, 1924, began his career working for Buffett’s grandfather and later joined Buffett in transforming Berkshire into a multi-billion dollar conglomerate. His journey from a part-time worker at a grocery store to a legal practitioner and eventually an investment mogul is a testament to his intellectual prowess and investment acumen.
Munger’s partnership with Buffett, beginning formally in 1975, was marked by differences in style and investing approaches yet thrived, making them both billionaires and enriching early shareholders. Munger, known for his blunt musings and laconic one-liners, impacted investing, the economy, and human nature. He was a Republican, contrasting Buffett’s Democrat stance, and had a passion for architecture, designing buildings like “Dormzilla” for the University of California, Santa Barbara. Despite their differences, Munger and Buffett shared a deep bond, finishing each other’s ideas and never having an argument.
Munger’s contributions extended beyond Berkshire. He chaired Daily Journal Corp for 45 years and was integral in Berkshire’s investment decisions, such as suggesting investments in BYD Co. and introducing Todd Combs, who now manages parts of Berkshire’s investment portfolio. Munger lived modestly, drove his own car, and was a generous philanthropist, donating over $100 million to the University of Michigan. He is survived by six children and two stepchildren from his marriages.
Early Life and Path to Success
Charles Munger, born in Omaha, Nebraska, on January 1, 1924, embarked on an illustrious journey that led him to become a cornerstone of the investment world. His early experiences working in a grocery store owned by Warren Buffett’s grandfather laid the groundwork for his future successes. Munger’s educational journey was marked by a stint at the University of Michigan studying mathematics, followed by service in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a meteorologist. Despite lacking an undergraduate degree, he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, thanks to his impressive intellect and a helping hand from a family friend.
A Storied Investment Career
Munger’s move to California was a pivotal moment in his career. He initially joined a law firm and later co-founded Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP. However, his true passion lay in investments, which led him to form his own investment firm and eventually partner with Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway. Munger’s investment philosophy was shaped by value investing, focusing on well-run companies with undervalued shares. Notable investments included the acquisition of Wesco Financial Corporation and a significant stake in Chinese firm BYD Co.
An Architect of Wealth & Wisdom
Munger, though not formally trained in architecture, made significant contributions to building designs at Stanford University and the University of Michigan. His $110 million donation to the University of Michigan for a state-of-the-art residence hall exemplified his commitment to fostering intellectual communities. This architectural interest paralleled his investment philosophy, where he emphasized ethical standards and a long-term approach to holding concentrated equity portfolios.
Legacy of Philanthropy
At his passing, Munger’s estimated net worth was $2.6 billion. He was a major benefactor to various educational institutions, including significant donations to the University of Michigan Law School and Marlborough School in Los Angeles. His philanthropic efforts extended beyond monetary contributions, as he deeply influenced the architectural design of the institutions he supported.
Stance on Crypto
Charles Munger, renowned for his investment acumen and partnership with Warren Buffett, was a vocal critic of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general. Munger’s disdain for Bitcoin was well-documented, as he often criticized it for its extreme volatility, lack of regulation, and potential use in illegal activities. He even advocated for a U.S. ban on cryptocurrencies, citing their predatory nature.
Munger referred to Bitcoin as “disgusting and contrary to the interests of civilization” and dismissed the idea of Bitcoin becoming a medium of exchange due to its instability. Despite acknowledging Bitcoin’s success, Munger remained critical, likening it to an “artificial substitute for gold” and calling the entire development of cryptocurrencies “disgusting and contrary to the interests of civilization”.
Personal Life and Political Views
Munger’s personal life was as rich as his professional one. He married Nancy Huggins in 1945 and later Nancy Barry, with whom he had a combined family of six children and two stepchildren. A Republican with unconventional views, Munger was vocal about political issues, advocating for Medicare for all and criticizing the U.S. healthcare system. His personal philosophy and ethical stance deeply influenced his business decisions and interactions.
Charles Munger’s life story is a blend of intellectual rigor, financial acumen, ethical investment, and a deep commitment to societal betterment. His partnership with Warren Buffett, marked by complementary differences, transformed Berkshire Hathaway into a titan of industry, and his legacy extends well beyond the financial world into the realms of education, philanthropy, and architecture. Munger’s passing marks the end of an era, but his teachings, wisdom, and contributions will continue to influence generations to come.
- Lucy Walker is a journalist that covers finance, health and beauty since 2014. She has been writing for various online publications.
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