The Business On... Charlie Munger, Vice-chairman, Berkshire Hathaway
Thursday 07 April 2011
Warren Buffett's sidekick?
That's exactly the right word. He is Barker to Mr Buffett's Corbett, as the two men crack wise and dispense the accumulated investment wisdom of their combined 168 years to Berkshire Hathaway's shareholders at the company's annual meeting. Mr Munger never fails to bring the house down with his deadpan catchphrase: "I have nothing to add."
But Mr Munger is his own man?
With his own following, too, complete with books about him (Poor Charlie's Almanack collects his speeches). He was a property lawyer before moving into investment in the Sixties. Like Mr Buffett, he hails from Omaha, Nebraska, though unlike Mr Buffett, he prefers to live in Los Angeles these days. The two men also have different politics (Mr Munger is a Republican) though they share a contempt for investment fads and business-school-learned financial engineering.
There is a little local difficulty at Berkshire at the moment, no?
You mean the resignation of David Sokol, heir apparent to Mr Buffett, amid allegations of insider dealing. He bought shares in a company just as Berkshire was considering launching a takeover bid – and made $3m (£1.8m) when the bid happened.
And Mr Munger has been dragged into the issue?
In his attempt to defend himself, Mr Sokol went on television to say his actions were no different to Mr Munger's. The Munger family had a stake in another company that Berkshire went on to buy, he said.
Mr Sokol is dragging him under the bus, too, then
Mr Munger says the two situations are very different. The Mungers owned their stake in BYD through an investment fund run by someone else, and had it for many years before Berkshire started thinking of an acquisition. And he recused himself from the talks.
Still, bad optics, as they say
In a normal year, Mr Munger might make a joke about his failing eyesight. But this year's meeting this month might not be so funny.
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