From Los Angeles, Munger spoke frequently by phone with Buffett in Omaha. Even when they couldn't connect, Buffett claimed he knew what Munger would think. When Munger missed a special meeting of Berkshire shareholders in 2010, Buffett brought a cardboard cutout of his partner on stage and mimicked Munger saying, "I couldn't agree more."
Munger was an outspoken critic of corporate misbehavior, faulting as "demented" and "immoral" the compensation packages given to some chief executives. He called bitcoin "noxious poison," defined cryptocurrency generally as "partly fraud and partly delusion" and warned that much of banking had become "gambling in drag."
"I love his ability to just cut to the heart of things and not care how he says it," said Cole Smead, CEO of Smead Capital Management, a longtime Berkshire investor. "In today's society, that's a really unique thing."
Though Munger aligned with the U.S. Republican Party, and Buffett sided with Democrats, the two often found common ground on issues like the desirability of universal healthcare and the need for government oversight of the financial system.
But while Buffett would tour the world urging billionaires to embrace charity, Munger said a private company like Costco Wholesale Corp. — he served on its board for more than two decades — did more good for society than big-name philanthropic foundations.
With his own donations, Munger promoted abortion rights and education. He served as chairman of Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. Multimillion-dollar bequests to the University of Michigan and the University of California at Santa Barbara for new housing facilities gave him an opportunity to indulge a passion for architecture — though his vision for a 4,500-person dormitory on the Santa Barbara campus drew howls of protest in 2021 because the vast majority of bedrooms are to have no windows.
Though he never rivaled Buffett in terms of worldwide celebrity, Munger's blunt manner of speaking earned him a following in his own right.
He used the term "groupies" to refer to his fans, often numbering in the hundreds, who gathered to see him without Buffett. Hosting the annual meetings of Wesco Financial Corp., a Berkshire unit, in Pasadena, Calif., Munger expounded on his philosophy of life and investing.
At the 2011 meeting, the last before Berkshire took complete control of Wesco, Munger told his audience, "You all need a new cult hero."
Charles Thomas Munger was born on Jan. 1, 1924, in Omaha, the first of three children of Alfred Munger and the former Florence Russell, who was known as Toody. His father, the son of a federal judge, had earned a law degree at Harvard University before returning to Omaha, where his clients included the Omaha World-Herald newspaper.
Munger entered the University of Michigan at age 17 with plans to study math, mostly because it came so easily. "When I was young I could get an A in any mathematics course without doing any work at all," he said in a 2017 conversation at Michigan's Ross Business School.
In 1942, during his sophomore year, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, soon to become the Air Force. He was sent to the California Institute of Technology to learn meteorology before being posted to Nome, Alaska. It was during this period, in 1945, that he married his first wife, Nancy Huggins.
Lacking an undergraduate degree, Munger applied to Harvard Law School before his Army discharge in 1946. He was admitted only after a family friend and former dean of the school intervened, according to Janet Lowe's 2000 book, "Damn Right! Behind the Scenes with Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger." Munger worked on the Harvard Law Review and in 1948 was one of 12 in the class of 335 to graduate magna cum laude.
With his wife and their son, Teddy, Munger moved to California to join a Los Angeles law firm. They added two daughters to their family before divorcing in 1953. In 1956, Munger married Nancy Barry Borthwick, a mother of two, and over time they expanded their blended family by having four more children. (Teddy, Munger's first-born, had died of leukemia in 1955.)
Not satisfied with the income potential of his legal career, Munger began working on construction projects and real estate deals. He founded a new law office, Munger, Tolles & Hills, and, in 1962, started an investment partnership, Wheeler, Munger & Co., modeled on the ones Buffett had set up with his earliest investors in Omaha.
"Like Warren, I had a considerable passion to get rich," Munger told Roger Lowenstein for Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist, published in 1995. "Not because I wanted Ferraris — I wanted independence. I desperately wanted it. I thought it was undignified to have to send invoices to other people."