Munger, who died Tuesday in California about a month shy of his 100th birthday, was the longtime business partner of Warren Buffett, with the pair transforming Berkshire from a failing textile mill into a $783 billion behemoth spanning industries from insurance to energy.
The duo would banter on stage at Berkshire’s shareholder event in Omaha, Nebraska, almost every year, and Munger himself drew fans annually to Los Angeles for Daily Journal Corp’s shareholder meetings. Munger’s blunt style and deep knowledge made for witty one-liners that often stood in stark contrast to the more folksy style of Buffett, 93.
Industry leaders including Bank of America Corp chief executive officer Brian Moynihan and former Wells Fargo & Co CEO Tim Sloan both called Munger “legendary.”
Munger was also “a generous philanthropist who provided unfiltered advice and refreshing opinions which positively impacted businesses worldwide,” Sloan said.
Here are some of Munger’s famous sayings:
On life lessons
With a base of avid fans who would flock to meetings that Munger would attend — he referred to them as “groupies” — the billionaire investor often opined about life lessons and answered questions about how to achieve the success he found in his. He also doled out some tough remarks, warning in 2015 that it would be harder for consumers to maintain their standard of living.
“Somebody my age has lived through the best and easiest period that ever happened in the history of the world — the lowest death rates, the highest investment production, biggest increases in most people’s standards of living,” Munger said in 2015. “If you’re unhappy with what you’ve had over the last 50 years, you have an unfortunate misappraisal of life.”
Munger often criticized people he thought were making bad bets or gambling. In 2011, he said the bubble in the US leading up to the financial crisis was caused by a combination of “megalomania, insanity and evil” and offered some choice words for Alan Greenspan, saying there was too little oversight during his tenure as chairman of the Federal Reserve.
“Alan Greenspan is a smart man,” Munger said. “He just totally overdosed on Ayn Rand at a young age.”
Years later, he criticized citizens of Greece for thinking they could vote themselves rich as their nation struggled with debt. And he didn’t spare Wall Street.
“What do you think a derivatives trading desk is? It’s a casino in drag,” Munger said in 2015. “They make the witch doctors look good.”
Munger was often a critic of cryptocurrencies, calling Bitcoin “noxious poison” and warning that digital assets were “partly fraud and partly delusion.”
“That’s a bad combination,” Munger said in a 2022 interview with CNBC. “I don’t like either fraud or delusion. And the delusion may be more extreme than the fraud.”
Munger, who often supported Republican causes, never shied away from expressing his opinions about either major political party. In 2017, he said Republican leaders risked going too far in their efforts to cut back on oversight of banks.
“My fellow Republicans — the ones taking away all this regulation of major finance — I think that’s bonkers,” Munger said in 2017.
He criticized former President Donald Trump ahead of the 2016 election, but he also said US Senator Bernie Sanders was too focused on income inequality.
“As an intellectual he’s a disgrace,” Munger said of Sanders at the time. “Now, I don’t think he’s any worse than some of our Republicans. But at least they’re crazy in a different way.”
Munger and Buffett’s biggest draw was often the way the pair simply presented complex business ideas. For Berkshire’s 50th anniversary, Munger laid out the history in a five-page letter and summed up why the conglomerate did so well. As to whether Berkshire’s path had implications elsewhere, he said the answer was “plainly yes.”
“In its early Buffett years, Berkshire had a big task ahead: turning a tiny stash into a large and useful company,” Munger said. “And it solved that problem by avoiding bureaucracy and relying much on one thoughtful leader for a long, long time as he kept improving and brought in more people like himself. Compare this to a typical big-corporation system with much bureaucracy at headquarters and a long succession of CEOs who come in at about age 59, pause little thereafter for quiet thought, and are soon forced out by a fixed retirement age.”