Investor Charles T. Munger Dies at Age 99
Was a Founder of Law Firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Charles T. Munger, a founder of the law firm now known as Munger Tolles & Olson and chairman of the board of the Daily Journal Corporation from 1977-2022, died yesterday at the age of 99.
A billionaire, he was vice president of Berkshire Hathaway, a holding company headed by his longtime business partner and friend, Warren Buffett, reputed to be the seventh wealthiest person in the world. As a teenager in Omaha, Nebraska—where he was born on New Year’s Day in 1924—Munger worked at Buffett & Son, a grocery store owned by Ernest P. Buffett, Warren Buffett’s grandfather.
He did not meet Warren Buffet, however, until 1959. The two invested together in the 1960s, including investing in Blue Chip Stamps, of which Munger became president.
A Jan. 22, 1996 article in Forbes quotes Munger as saying of himself and Buffett:
“Our minds work in very much the same way.”
“You know the cliché that opposites attract? Well, opposites don’t attract. Psychological experiments prove that’s it’s people who are alike that are attracted to each other.”
Buffett said in a statement released yesterday:
“Berkshire Hathaway could not have been built to its present status without Charlie’s inspiration, wisdom and participation.”
Admission to Harvard
Munger took undergraduate courses at University of Michigan and Caltech while in the Air Force during WWII. At age 22, he apparently became the first person admitted to Harvard Law School without an undergraduate degree.
Journalist Roger Lowenstein said of Munger in his 1995 book, “Buffett—the Making of an American Capitalist”:
“His classmates found him brilliant and opinionated to a fault. Called on by a professor when he was unprepared, Munger shot back, ‘I haven’t read the case, but if you give me the facts, I’ll give you the law.’ ”
He received his law degree in 1948—graduating magna cum laude—and was admitted to the State Bar of California on Jan. 4, 1949.
Munger practiced in Los Angeles with Wright & Garrett (which became Wusick, Peeler & Garrett). He was sole counsel for that firm representing a client in a Kern County farmland case, resolved in a 1959 Court of Appeal opinion.
It was in 1962 that he became a founding partner in Munger, Tolles, Hills & Rickershauser, now Munger, Tolles & Olson.
Munger played a large role in persuading the California Supreme Court to strike down an anti-abortion statute in the 1969 case of People v. Belous. Buffett, is quoted in the Forbes article as saying:
“Charlie took over the case. He solicited deans of leading medical and law schools to enter amicus briefs. Charlie did all the work on it day and night, even writing some of the briefs himself.”
An advocate of Planned Parenthood, Munger was “a driving force for instituting abortion clinics in Los Angeles,” according to Lowenthal’s book. The 1996 Forbes article says:
“During the 1960s, Munger helped California women obtain abortions in Mexico by paying for their trips.”
Munger was the father of eight children. At its website, San Diego Metropolitan Magazine formerly reported:
“Munger…says he wanted to be wealthy because he wanted a large family. With eight children, he got his wish. Though Munger realizes that wealth isn’t everything, it did give him freedom of choice.”
Inactive Bar Status
After ceasing the practice of law, he maintained his active State Bar membership until his 69th birthday in 1993. He assumed inactive status rather than having to meet the new MCLE requirement which had gone into effect Jan. 1, 1991.
From 1962-75, Munger managed Wheeler, Munger & Company, an investment counseling firm. His involvement with the Los Angeles Daily Journal commenced in 1977 when the New America Fund, in which Munger was a major investor, bought the Daily Journal Company.
Munger never received a cent from the newspaper except when the Daily Journal Corporation paid $3 million to the New America Fund in 1986, before it was liquidated, for the purchase of the Daily Journal and other newspapers.
With assets once estimated at $2.7 billion, Munger’s philanthropy was expansive—so expansive, that he lost his status as a billionaire. It included the donation earlier this year of Berkshire Hathaway shares valued at more than $40 million to the Huntington Museum in San Marino, which he had supported in the past.
He made a gift of such shares—valued at $3 million—to Stanford University, which had been attended by his second wife, Nancy B. Munger (who died in 2010), and by Wendy Munger, a daughter from his previous marriage.
He also gave $1.8 million to Marlborough, a private girl’s high school in Hancock Park which had been attended by Nancy B. Munger and by Molly Munger, also a daughter from his first marriage.
Munger provided a $20 million donation to the University of Michigan Law School for renovating its Lawyers Club housing complex and another $3 million gift to the school for improvement of its lighting.
Lawyers in Family
Munger was the son of a lawyer, Alfred Case Munger, and grandson of a judge, Thomas Charles, who served on the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska.
Among the children surviving him are three lawyers: Wendy Munger and Molly Munger—both of whom were admitted to practice in California and are now on inactive bar status—and a daughter from his second marriage, Emilie Munger Ogden, a former associate with the law firm of Perkins Coie in Seattle, on inactive status in the State of Washington.
He is also survived by three sons from the second marriage, Charles Munger Jr., Barry Munger, and Philip Munger and by two stepsons, William Harold “Hal” Borthwick—a member of the law firm of Hill Farrer & Burrill LLP—and David Borthwick, as well as 15 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Copyright 2023, Metropolitan News Company