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Charlie Munger, Warren Buffets sidekick at Berkshire Hathaway, dies at 99

Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRK.A -0.64%) (BRK.B -0.81%) legendary performance is undeniable. Since CEO Warren Buffett took over the failing textile business in 1965, the stock has returned investors 20% compounded annually — doubling the S&P 500’s average annual return in the same period. Munger and Buffett began buying Berkshire Hathaway shares in 1962 for $7 and $8 per share, and they took control of the textile firm in 1965. Readers gain a framework for how to view risk, markets, and investing, as well as an understanding of how truly great businesses should operate. Buffett makes it clear that investing is far from a science and that there is much more to being a successful investor than being the smartest person in the room. Retained earnings can be worth considerably more or less than 100 cents on the dollar, and managers should adopt dividend policies that reflect that fact.

  • By viewing market prices as quotes from a manic-depressive business partner, the investor is now put in a position of power over market prices rather than enslaved by them (a far-too-common occurrence).
  • The information contained herein is obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy cannot be guaranteed.
  • The letters from 1977 onwards are available on the Berkshire Hathaway website, but in order to find the earlier letters, I had to search elsewhere.

By 1995, he owned half of the company — and later that year, he arranged to buy the rest. Across the world, companies shuttered their doors and investors lost thousands or even millions on their holdings. In between accounts of Berkshire’s current holdings, he tells jokes, shares anecdotes, and relates quippy aphorisms to help illuminate his core points.

He would buy stock in companies that were selling cheaply for less than their assets were worth, and then, when the market price improved, sell the shares. Buffett is a strong advocate of buying and holding equities for long periods of time, with minimal levels of activity (especially selling). In his 1983 letter, he states his distaste for highly active investing, saying, “One of the ironies of the stock market is the emphasis on activity. Along the way, Buffett shares with his stockholders great insight into the reasoning behind every acquisition and major investment made and provides a highly detailed historical account of Berkshire Hathaway’s growth. More importantly, from time to time Buffett will share his views on a number of different topics ranging from market fluctuations to accounting for intangible assets.

It may become outdated an there is no obligation to update any such information. “We believe it is insane to risk what you have and need in order to obtain what you don’t need,” Buffett writes. That’s why Buffett is a fan of some kinds of debt, just not the kind that can leave consumers broke when the market swings down. While Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway conduct plenty of business with investment banks and have invested in a few, he has issued some pointed criticisms at the industry over the years. The reason that many CEOs use derivatives, Buffett says, is to hedge risks inherent to their business — like Burlington Northern (a railroad company) using fuel derivatives to protect its business model against an increase in the price of fuel. General Re had been operating as a dealer in the swap and derivatives market, making money on futures, options on various foreign currencies and stock exchanges, credit default swaps, and other financial products.

All across the business world, from big, corporate boardrooms to the offices of venture capitalists, managers employ the use of debt to juice returns. Each year, Warren Buffett writes an open letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders. Over the last 40 years, these letters have become an annual required read across the investing world, providing insight into how Buffett and his team think about everything from investment strategy to stock ownership to company culture, and more. Buffett discusses the reasons for a strong financial condition to offset the risk of the cyclical nature of the textile business and to provide capital to look for acquisitions within and without the textile field.

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Progressive’s long history of collecting driver data is one part of its stellar underwriting performance, and maybe Buffett and his team caved and wanted a piece of the action. I have always thought for a very long time [that] Progressive has been very well run. Munger preferred to stay in the background and let Buffett be the face of Berkshire, and he often downplayed his contributions to the company’s remarkable success. Berkshire Hathaway said in a statement that Munger’s family told the company that he died Tuesday morning at the hospital just over a month before his 100th birthday. In this case, the corporation has a controlling owner not involved in management.

So, we can see, even at the very start of Buffett’s involvement with Berkshire Hathaway, he has a keen eye on industry dynamics and profitability, liquidity and capital allocation.

  • All of this adds up to a strong set of incentives to do whatever it takes to stay on the board.
  • Yahoo wasn’t doing well when she arrived, but many said her management style and decisions made it worse.
  • The risk of a company failing and a significant amount of debt getting called back is too great a risk, and Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway share in that risk equally with their shareholders.

Much of Berkshire’s early success came down to the intelligent use of leverage on relatively cheap stocks, as a 2013 study from AQR Capital Management and Copenhagen Business School showed. But Buffett’s main problem is not with the concept of debt — it is with the type of high-interest, variable-rate debt that consumer investors must take on if they want to use it to buy stocks. His frustration with investment banker math reached its boiling point in his 1986 letter to shareholders, in which he dissected the value of Berkshire’s latest acquisition, the Scott Fetzer Company. No business that is not generating value over the long term is worth holding on to, and holding on to a bad business is never going to be a good investing strategy. This observation is important for Buffett, and for his overall conservative strategy in the market.

This is no easy task; many property and casualty insurers have much difficulty generating an underwriting profit, and the cost of their float can be quite expensive as a result. Berkshire’s cost-free float, while carried on its books as a liability, has proven to be one of its greatest assets. Berkshire first entered the insurance industry in 1967 with the acquisition of National Indemnity and National Fire and Marine Insurance Company. Berkshire’s presence in the insurance industry has grown enormously over the years, especially with the acquisition of GEICO at the beginning of 1996 and General Re in 1998. All of the letters in the book and the examples above were written by Warren E. Buffett and are copyrighted and reprinted with his permission. These letters may not be reproduced, copied, sold or otherwise distributed without the permission of Warren E. Buffett.

Here’s A List Of Every Book Warren Buffett Has Recommended This Decade

He eats at McDonald’s and drinks “at least five 12-ounce servings” of Coca-Cola every day. Whether or not you buy The Berkshire Hathaway Annual Letters to Shareholders, you can always access the most recent ones on But this book is the only way you can get the complete Berkshire story, from start to presence. The downside is that it takes about 700 pages to summarize and analyze all of Berkshires behavior throughout that time frame. Stephen Foley at FT Alphaville has a great breakdown of Buffett’s letter here, which serves a great curtain raiser ahead of the 50th annual Berkshire letter.


And Munger served on the board of Costco Wholesale Corp. and for years as chairman of the Daily Journal Corp. “He will be greatly missed by many, perhaps by nobody more than Mr. Buffett, who relied heavily on his wisdom and counsel. They challenged each other yet seemed to really enjoy being in each other’s company,” Edward Jones analyst Jim Shanahan said. During the entire time they worked together, Buffett and Munger lived more than 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) apart, but Buffett said he would call Munger in Los Angeles or Pasadena to consult on every major decision he made.

On Stock Issuance, Splits, and Repurchases

In 1965, Warren Buffett penned his first annual letter to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway. The letter was one page long and dealt with topics that included liquidating the assets of one textile mill and changes in Berkshire’s inventory. In 2012, forty-eight years later, Buffett discusses his 50% purchase of a holding company that will own 100% of H.J. Heinz, paying $4 billion for common stock and another $8 billion for additional preferred shares. Warren Buffett is well known for his love of companies that pay dividends, and Berkshire Hathaway has profited greatly from companies making payouts to their shareholders.

Buffett’s Ideal Company

At the age of 26, a Nebraska stockbroker and school teacher named Warren Buffett took his “retirement fund” of $174,000 and decided to start his own investment business. I’m a value investor but, I use swing trading techniques to manage my position berkshire hathaway letters to shareholders sizes and risk. As a matter of fact, I believe that we have done somewhat better during the past few years with the capital we have had in the Partnership than we would have done if we had been working with a substantially smaller amount.

Why The Berkshire Hathaway Annual Letters to Shareholders Are a MUST Read:

Together with increased imports, this led to greater competition and decreased prices. Buffett predicted looms would therefore swing back to cotton goods, which would likely affect sales in another division. Buffett first took control of Berkshire Hathaway in April of 1965 after a period of underperformance at the company.

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