Passing: Charlie Munger, 99, was stationed at Nome during World War II before becoming Warren Buffett’s right-hand man

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Charlie Munger

Charles Munger, vice president of Berkshire Hathaway, died Tuesday, just over one month before his 100th birthday. As Warren Buffett’s business partner for nearly 60 years, he helped overhaul Berkshire from an underperforming textile company into a legendary investment empire.

Born in Omaha, Neb. on Jan. 1, 1924, Munger studied math at the University of Michigan, but then enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps after Imperial Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and the United States finally was all-in on World War II.

Munger was sent to the California Institute of Technology to study meteorology before being posted to Nome. He served in Nome as a meteorologist at a time when 2,300 American troops were sent to the outpost after the Japanese invaded American territory in Attu and Kiska, in the Aleutian Islands.

Nome’s Marks Air Field was in operation from 1940 to 1950. After bombing and invading the Aleutians, Japanese were reported to be quickly moving ships into the Bering Sea and building up troops. That’s when the military sent 2,300 airmen, Munger among them, to Nome to build a defense against Japanese invasion. Nome, which went from non-existent to had as many as 10,000 residents during the Gold Rush of 1898, was only a town of about 1,559 in 1940 before the military arrived.

Munger said he learned the game of poker while in the Army Air Corps and that it taught him strategic thinking, pattern recognition, and risk management.

“You have to learn to fold early when the odds are against you, or if you have a significant edge, back it heavily because you don’t get a considerable advantage often. Opportunity comes but doesn’t come often, so seize it when it does come,” he said.

Munger married Nancy Huggins as the war ended and settled in Pasadena, Calif., where he eventually worked with Buffett. He was also engaged in real estate deals, was chairman and publisher of the Daily Journal Corp., and served on the Board of Directors for Costco. He was a supporter of Republican candidates and causes. He and Nancy divorced and he later married Nancy Barry, who died in 2010.

“Berkshire Hathaway could not have been built to its present status without Charlie’s inspiration, wisdom and participation,” Buffett said in a statement. Buffett is 93 years old.

Munger was said to be worth $2.6 billion in 2023. During his life, he donated at least $550 million to charitable causes, often for university student housing and similar projects. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, his largest gift was $200 million to the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2016, most of which was designated for an undergraduate residence hall, with $65 million designated for housing for visiting physicists. Over the years, Munger had sold or donated more than 75% of his Berkshire stock.

He was famous for his one-liners, including these:

“Take a simple idea and take it seriously.”

“Show me the incentive and I will show you the outcome.”

“Every time you hear ebitda, just substitute it with bullshit.”

“There is more dementia about finance than there is about sex.”

“To say accounting for derivatives in America is a sewer is an insult to sewage.”

“If mutual fund directors are independent, then I’m the lead character in the Bolshoi Ballet.”

“It’s not the adultery I mind. It’s the embezzlement.”

“The worshipping at the altar of diversification, I think that is really crazy.”

“Acquire worldly wisdom and adjust your behaviour accordingly. If your new behavior gives you a little temporary unpopularity with your peer group . . . then to hell with them.”

“I think when you’re buying jewelry for the woman you love, financial considerations probably shouldn’t enter into it.”

Munger’s family said he peacefully died Tuesday at a California hospital.

6 COMMENTS

    • Wow Jeff or whatever your name is , pretty good . Can’t imagine that’s an original thought from that region ? Enlighten me ?

      • The only thing worse than feeding a troll is feeding a religious troll. The conversation will run down a rabbit hole of make believe and fantasy immediately.

        It’s preposterous to think that if 2000 years ago the populace had access to our modern understanding of physics and natural science any of them would ever allowed such religious teachings to have gained footing. That some may still cling to our history as having a comic book reality speaks volumes… but volumes that don’t merit being heard.

    • Same here. He has been far more interesting to listen to than his partner and you could almost always bank on some unexpected colloquial quip coming out whenever he opened his mouth at a board meeting.

      “A lot of our respected financial institutions are just casinos in drag”
      – C. Munger

      “I’d rather throw a viper down my shirt front than hire a compensation consultant”
      – C. Munger

  1. Pays well to have a mother reading aloud to her children alongside a father protecting his family, which one of his role is helping his wife to see their children have excellent education. He is another example of his dying generation his parents generation they knew good education and quality children literature starting with the Bible stories. He couldn’t be successful nor any wiser without the smarter parents coming before. So get started and read-aloud to the children around you. Even boomer grandparents must be reading to their grandkids especially when grandparents recognize their adult children (GenX and millennials and GenZ) aren’t reading aloud to their grandkids. No child deserves to stay dumb. All kids deserve to be as smart as their brain is capable like me munger

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