Charles Thomas Munger, a renowned investor who famously partnered with Warren Buffett as Berkshire Hathaway’s vice chairman, passed away on November 28 at the age of 99. Munger’s family notified Berkshire Hathaway that he died in a California hospital earlier this morning.
Munger had a lengthy and distinguished career across various industries, particularly as one of the most successful American investors of the past century. He also gained recognition as a prominent critic of cryptocurrency in the business world, consistently dismissing it as an unfavorable investment.
Alongside his friend and business collaborator Warren Buffett, Munger played a significant role in transforming Berkshire Hathaway from a struggling textile company into a massive conglomerate and investment vehicle valued at over $700 billion. His investment philosophy revolved around acquiring high-quality companies for long-term investment purposes.
A Remarkable Career
Charlie Munger enjoyed a remarkable 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 full-time investing and business management in the 1960s.
From 1962 to 1975, Munger operated his own successful investment partnership, which consistently achieved annualized returns of nearly 20%, surpassing market indexes by a significant margin. This caught the attention of Warren Buffett, who invited Munger to join Berkshire Hathaway as vice chairman. At Berkshire, Munger played a crucial role in turning around a struggling textile manufacturer and transforming it into a conglomerate powerhouse currently valued at over $700 billion.
While Munger was widely recognized as Buffett’s right-hand man, he had already established an exceptional career prior to their renowned partnership. When Buffett attributed “all the credit” for Berkshire’s success to Munger, it was an accurate acknowledgment of Munger’s decades-long experience in business and investing. His own investment track record spoke for itself.
The Critic of Crypto
Munger was a vocal critic of speculative investment strategies such as cryptocurrencies, and he staunchly defended his position. He referred to Bitcoin as “noxious poison,” a “venereal disease,” and cryptocurrencies in general as “turds.” At the 2023 Daily Journal shareholder meeting, the 99-year-old did not hold back, describing cryptocurrencies as “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 questioned about his standpoint, Munger dismissed critics as “idiots” and argued that there were no rational arguments against banning cryptocurrencies outright, as China had done in 2021.
Despite the rebound of risky assets like Bitcoin and Ethereum in early 2023, Munger remained steadfast in his views. “I’m not interested in undermining the national currencies of the world,” he stated in July 2022. His advice to investors was straightforward: “Never touch it. Never buy it. Let it pass by.”
Only time will determine whether Munger’s perspectives on crypto stand the test of time. However, it is undeniable that with his passing, the business world not only lost a sharp mind and astute investor but also a commanding presence and one of its most candid voices.