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Charlie Munger, Longtime Business Partner of Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway, Passes Away at 99

Charlie Munger, longtime business partner of CEO Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway, has passed away at the age of 99. 

Munger died on Tuesday in a California hospital, Berkshire Hathaway announced in a statement posted on its website. Credited with helping Buffett build the company into a legendary financial firm known for its savvy investments in companies like Apple and GEICO, Munger served as Berkshire Hathaway’s vice chairman and played a crucial role in the company’s spectacular stock gains over the past several decades.

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

Buffett’s 2022 annual letter to shareholders calculated that Berkshire Hathaway’s shares had gained over 3,787,000% from 1965 through 2022, compared with a 24,700% gain in the S&P 500 over the same period. 

As a sounding board on investments and business decisions for Buffett, Munger shared a lot in common with him. Both were Nebraska natives who worked at the grocery store run by Buffett’s grandfather and uncle. They also attended the same high school, although they didn’t meet as children because Buffett, 93, is several years younger than Munger. 

Charlie Munger, who died on Tuesday, November 28, 2023 at the age of 99, played a key role in helping Warren Buffett build Berkshire Hathaway into a legendary financial firm known for its tremendous investment returns. 

AP Photo/Nati Harnik

The two met for the first time in 1959, at an Omaha dinner party when Munger was practicing law in Southern California and Buffett was running an investment partnership in Omaha. They instantly hit it off and maintained their friendship through frequent telephone calls and lengthy letters, according to Munger’s biography in his book “Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger.”

After trading investment ideas and even buying into the same companies during the 1960s and 1970s, Munger eventually joined Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway, becoming its vice chairman in 1978. Munger’s pivotal role in leading Berkshire spanned over five decades.

Munger preferred to stay in the background and let Buffett be the face of Berkshire, often downplaying his contributions to the company’s remarkable success. His success made Munger immensely wealthy, with Forbes estimating his fortune at $2.6 billion.

A contrast to the congenial Buffett, Munger would offer dryly stated “I have nothing to add” at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meetings, only to then offer sharp insights that got to the heart of the matter, such as his advice in 2012 on spotting a good investment.

“If it’s got a really high commission on it, don’t bother looking at it,” he said.

At the time of his passing, Munger was also serving on the boards of directors at Costco, Daily Journal Corp., and Berkshire Hathaway, according to the financial data firm FactSet.

Prominent figures on Wall Street expressed their sadness at Munger’s death.

“For so many decades, the two of them led an investment powerhouse that significantly improved so many people’s lives … and, in the process, they repeatedly showcased the prowess of collaboration, synergies and common sense,” Mohamed El-Arian, chief economic advisor at Allianz, said on X, (formerly known as Twitter), referring to Munger’s partnership with Buffett.

A noted philanthropist, Munger recently made a $40 million gift to the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Museum in San Marino, California, a California museum that he had supported in the past. He also donated to various learning institutions, and he and his late wife Nancy B. Munger, who died in 2010, were major benefactors of Stanford University.

Buffett always credited 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,” Buffett said in 2008.

—With reporting by the Associated Press.

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