Investors from all around the world and SA pay tribute to Charlie Munger

Berkshire Hathaway vice-chairperson Charlie Munger. File

Berkshire Hathaway vice-chairperson Charlie Munger. File

Published Nov 30, 2023


Yesterday South Africa woke up to the news that the investment guru Charlie Munger had died on Tuesday at the age of 99.

Tributes flooded social media platform, from Apple CEO Tim Cook to South Africans.

Tim Cook (@tim_cook) posted: “A titan of business and keen observer of the world around him, Charlie Munger helped build an American institution, and through his wisdom and insights, inspired a generation of leaders. He will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, Charlie.”

David Shapiro (@davidshapiro61) posted: “So sad. Woke up to the news that Charlie Munger has passed away at the age of 99. I was blessed to have seen Charlie in full swing at many of the Berkshire meetings I attended in Omaha. Few understand what an important role he played in shaping Warren Buffett’s investment views.”

“Business Report” spoke to a few other local investors:

Peter Armitage, the CEO of Anchor Capital, said: “Growing up as an investor in South Africa, the legend of Charlie Munger (and, by association, Warren Buffett) loomed large. Mentors always quoted him, and clients often referred to their wisdom and wanted to own Berkshire Hathaway shares. We used Munger quotes in presentations almost every year. The investment world has indeed lost a giant with his passing.”

Munger, the vice-chairperson of Berkshire Hathaway, died on November 28 (he would have turned 100 on January 1).

A billionaire in his own right, with his net worth estimated at $2.3 billion (R42.6bn), he met investment guru Warren Buffett in 1959 – the beginning of a friendship lasting more than six decades.

In 1978, Munger officially started working as Berkshire’s vice-chairperson. He was credited with helping Buffett choose how to invest, steering Berkshire away from what they referred to as “cigar butts” (inferior businesses that had a puff of smoke left and could be bought cheaply) and building Berkshire into a $785bn behemoth.

Buffett wrote of Munger’s influence on him: “It took Charlie Munger to break my cigar-butt habits and set the course for building a business that could combine huge size with satisfactory profits.”

Of the two, Munger was often outspoken, known for his colourful language and delivering blunt investing advice. He called cryptocurrency “worthless” on CNBC, saying: “Sometimes I call it crypto ‘crappo’, sometimes I call it ‘crypto s---.’ It’s just ridiculous that anybody would buy this stuff.” He once compared bankers to heroin addicts, and at Berkshire’s annual meeting earlier this year, said he was “sceptical” of some of “the hype” around AI, adding that he believed “… old-fashioned intelligence works pretty well”.

Munger was famous for delivering the line “I’ve got nothing to add” at the Berkshire AGM after Buffett would refer a shareholder query to him. However, at the heart of his business philosophy was ethics, with Munger saying: “Good businesses are ethical businesses. A business model that relies on trickery is doomed to fail.” He also advised investors to put money into businesses they understand with a durable competitive advantage.

Following his death, Buffett said of his friend: “Berkshire Hathaway could not have been built to its present status without Charlie’s inspiration, wisdom and participation.”

RIP, Charlie.

Peter Takaendesa, portfolio manager at Mergence Investment Managers: “To me, Charlie Munger will be remembered mostly for his passion for investments and a great sense of humour. His wisdom and the ability to simplify complicated matters created huge followings for him in the investment world. Condolences to his family and all those who were closest to him.”