Charles Thomas Munger, an investing legend known for his partnership with Warren Buffett as Berkshire Hathaway’s vice chairman, died Nov. 28 at the age of 99. Munger’s family informed Berkshire that he passed away in a California hospital earlier this morning.
Munger had a long and storied career across multiple industries, most notably as one of the most successful and influential investors of all time. He was also one of the business world’s most ferocious critics of cryptocurrency and frequently dismissed it as a poor investment.
Alongside his friend and business partner Warren Buffett, Munger transformed Berkshire Hathaway from a struggling textile company into a conglomerate behemoth and investment vehicle worth over $700 billion. Munger brought his deep expertise from decades of investing experience, with compound annual returns of nearly 20% from 1962 to 1975. His value investing philosophy focused on buying quality companies for the long term. “Our favorite holding period is forever,” he once famously said.
A Storied Career
Charlie Munger had an illustrious career spanning law, business, investing, and philanthropy. After serving in World War II and graduating from Harvard Law School, he practiced real estate law in California before shifting his focus to investing and business management full-time in the 1960s.
From 1962-1975, Munger ran his own successful investment partnership that generated annualized returns of nearly 20% – dramatically outpacing market indexes. This caught the attention of Warren Buffett, who brought Munger on board at Berkshire Hathaway as vice chairman.
At Berkshire, Munger was integral to transforming a struggling textile manufacturer into a conglomerate giant and investment powerhouse now worth over $700 billion. Munger brought deep expertise from managing his own investments as well as other business ventures.
While Munger was best known as Buffett’s right-hand man, he carved out an exceptional career even before their famed partnership. When Buffett said Munger deserved “all the credit” for Berkshire’s success, it was no exaggeration given Munger’s decades of business and investing experience. His own investment record spoke for itself. Ultimately, Charlie Munger built a legacy as one of the most admired, quotable, and multi-skilled leaders worldwide.
King of the Crypto Bears
Munger was an outspoken critic of speculative investing strategies like cryptocurrencies, a position he staunchly defended. He referred to Bitcoin as “noxious poison,” a “venereal disease,” and to cryptocurrencies generally as “turds.” At the 2023 Daily Journal shareholder meeting, the 99-year-old pulled no punches, calling cryptocurrencies “massively stupid” and “dangerous.”
“It isn’t even slightly stupid, it’s massively stupid. And, of course, it’s very dangerous, and, of course, the governments were totally wrong to permit it… It’s worthless, it’s crazy, it’s not good, it’ll do nothing but harm, it’s antisocial to allow it.”
When asked about his position, Munger dismissed critics as “idiots” and said there were no rational arguments against banning cryptocurrencies outright, as China had done in 2021. In Munger’s view, the collapse of major exchanges like FTX in 2022 only further validated his warnings.
While risky assets like Bitcoin and Ethereum rebounded in early 2023, Munger remained unmoved. “I’m not interested in undermining the national currencies of the world,” he said in July 2022. His advice to investors was simple: “Never touch it. Never buy it. Let it pass by.”
Whether or not Munger’s views on crypto age well is a matter only time can tell. It is certain, however, that with his passing, the business world lost more than a sharp mind and shrewd investor. It lost a giant presence and one of its bluntest voices.
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