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Charlie Munger, the sharp-witted vice-chair of Berkshire Hathaway and investment partner of Warren Buffett, died at the age of 99 on Tuesday morning at a California hospital, the US investment conglomerate said in a statement.
Munger, a trained lawyer whose name still sits atop of Los Angeles law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson, was instrumental in turning Berkshire into the investment powerhouse it is today.
Buffett, Berkshire’s chief executive, said in a short statement that the company “could not have been built to its present status without Charlie’s inspiration, wisdom and participation”.
Munger was born on January 1 1924, to Alfred and Florence Munger in Omaha, Nebraska. A survivor of the Great Depression, he studied meteorology while serving in the Army during the second world war before graduating from Harvard Law School.
Munger first met Buffett in 1959, and the two became intellectual sparring partners even before they invested together.
In 1962, the same year Buffett started buying stock in the textile maker Berkshire Hathaway, Munger formed his law firm.
Buffett pushed Munger repeatedly to make the jump into the investment world, telling him at one point that “law was fine as a hobby, but he could do better”. Munger eventually set up his own investment partnership known as Wheeler, Munger & Company, and his investment returns, like Buffett’s, were stellar.
Munger joined Berkshire Hathaway in 1978. While he could come off as deferential to Buffett — he would often respond to investor questions at Berkshire annual meetings with a short “I have nothing to add” after his partner had answered — Munger was often a driving force behind some of its investments.
He was consulted frequently on large takeovers, in some cases negotiating the details himself, according to people who sat across the table from him. His passions in engineering helped lead the company to its investment in Chinese carmaker BYD.