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Charlie Munger first met Warren Buffett in 1959. Here's how the lawyer became an investing legend.

charlie munger
Charlie Munger was 99.Rick Wilking/Reuters
  • Charlie Munger died at the age of 99 on Tuesday.

  • The Berkshire Hathaway vice-chairman became an investor after meeting Warren Buffett at a dinner party.

  • He also served in the US Army Air Corps, and lost an eye to failed cataract surgery.

Charlie Munger, the vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and Warren Buffett's righthand man, died at the age of 99 on Tuesday.

"Berkshire Hathaway could not have been built to its present status without Charlie's inspiration, wisdom and participation," Buffett said in a press release.

Things could have turned out differently for Munger if he didn't meet Buffett at a 1959 dinner party in their hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.

Munger was a successful lawyer before Buffett convinced him to try out finance, and then to join Berkshire Hathaway in 1978.

Here's the story behind the investing legend.

Charlie Munger was born in Omaha, Nebraska on January 1, 1924.

Downtown Omaha
Omaha, NebraskaDavel/Getting Images

As a teenager, one of his first jobs was at a grocery store called Buffett & Son, owned by Warren Buffett's grandfather.

store Owner Putting Sign Up In Grocery
(Original Caption) 8/1/1946-New York, NY: Charles Zobel in the grocery department of Al's Food Market, 468 Dean St., Brooklyn, tacks up new OPA sign
Bettmann/Getty Images

In 1941, Munger left Omaha to enroll at the University of Michigan, studying math. He would later donate millions of dollars to his alma mater.

The University Of Michigan North Campus signage at the University Of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan on July 30, 2019.
Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

By 1943, shortly after turning 19, he joined the US Army Air Corps as a second lieutenant.

Portrait of American military Brigadier General James Doolittle (1896 - 1993) as he stands next to an Army Air Corps recruiting poster, 1943
Brigadier General James Doolittle stands next to a recruiting poster in 1943.US Army Air Force/Interim Archives/Getty Images

After scoring highly on an army intelligence test, Munger was sent to study meteorology at Caltech in Pasadena.

Pasadena City Hall with American Flag
Chiharu Uchida/Getty Images

Through the G.I. Bill, he took several other classes. And in 1945, he married his first wife Nancy Huggins.

President Franklin Roosevelt today signed the G.I.Bill of Rights, which provides broad benefits for veterans of World War II. The ceremony was witnessed by members of the Senate and House and members of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars
President Franklin Roosevelt signing the G.I. Bill of Rights.Bettmann/Getty Images

Munger then applied to Harvard Law School, which his father attended, but was rejected because he didn't have an undergraduate degree.

Harvard Law school
A view of a gate to Harvard Yard on the campus of Harvard University on July 8, 2020 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The former dean, Roscoe Pound, was a Munger family friend and intervened on his behalf. Munger graduated summa cum laude – the highest honor – in 1948.

Harvard University campus
The campus of Harvard Business School and Harvard University, July 26, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. Harvard, one of the most prestigious business schools in the world, emphasizes the case method in the classroomBrooks Kraft/Corbis via Getty Images

Munger moved with his family to California and worked in law. He divorced his first wife in 1953 and met Nancy Borthwick on a blind date, marrying her in 1956.

Broken paper with golden wedding rings
Paul Tamas/Getty Images

Source: Stanford Magazine

Munger and Warren Buffett first met in 1959 at a dinner party in their hometown of Omaha, and quickly got along.

charlie munger and warren buffett
Eric Francis/Getty Images

"About five minutes into it, Charlie was sort of rolling on the floor laughing at his own jokes, which is exactly the same thing I did," Buffett told CNBC. "I thought, 'I'm not going to find another guy like this.' And we just hit it off."

Back in California, he cofounded the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson in 1962, where he worked as a real estate attorney.

The gavel for Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., is carted away by House aides following testimony by Constitutional law experts, Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman, Stanford Law School professor Pamela Karlan, University of North Carolina Law School professor Michael Gerhardt and George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the constitutional grounds for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019.
Andrew Harnik/AP

The two stayed in touch, and on Buffett's advice, Munger gave up law to concentrate on managing investments.

Charlie Munger, left, and Warren Buffett, right
Nati Harnik/AP

Munger was successful, as Buffett pointed out in a 1984 essay. `He generated compound annual returns of 19.8% between 1962 and 1975.

Source: Bloomberg
jayk7/Getty Images

"He was willing to accept greater peaks and valleys of performance, and he happens to be a fellow whose whole psyche goes toward concentration, with the results shown," Buffett wrote.

In his 50s, Munger lost his left eye after cataract surgery failed. A doctor warned he could lose his right eye too, so he began learning braille, but the condition improved.

Hand on Braille book
Hill Street Studios/Getty Images

Buffett became CEO of Berkshire Hathaway in 1965, and convinced Munger to join him as vice-chairman in 1978.

Shareholders attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting on April 30, 2022 in Omaha, Nebraska.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The pair became the face of the company, with Munger known as the pragmatic and witty righthand man.

buffett berkshire ketchup
AP

Munger stayed in California while Buffett worked from Omaha, speaking frequently by phone.

Warren Buffett Charlie Munger
David Silverman/Getty Images

Source: Bloomberg

Buffett credited Munger with swaying him away from the "cigar-butt" style of value investing, which involves buying low-priced stock in struggling companies.

A box of Cuban cigars.
markgoddard/Getty Images

"It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price," Buffett told shareholders in 1989. "Charlie understood this early – I was a slow learner."

When Munger missed a shareholders meeting in 2010, Buffett brought a cardboard cutout on stage, and mimicked him saying: "I couldn't agree more."

Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, and Borsheims.
Markets Insider

Source: Bloomberg

Munger was known for his one-liners, calling crypto "rat poison" and a "venereal disease." In May, he rebuffed AI: "I think old-fashioned intelligence works pretty well."

charlie munger
Charlie Munger was 99.Rick Wilking/Reuters

Source: Yahoo Finance

When he died Munger was worth $2.6 billion.

Charlie Munger
Lane Hickenbottom/Reuters

Source: Forbes

Munger died in a California hospital on November 28, aged 99.

Charlie Munger
Nati Harnik/AP

Charlie Munger, investing legend and right hand to Warren Buffett, dies at 99

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