Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger

For Better
Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger

Behind every great man is a relationship. Billionaire Warren Buffett—Time’s “most influential person in the world; Forbes’s “richest man in the world; Foreign Policy’s “most influential global thinker”—is the well-known chairman of the investment firm Berkshire Hathaway. Less well known is Charlie Munger, Berkshire-Hathaway’s vice-chair, and Buffett’s thinking partner for most of the last 50 years.

“One plus one with Charlie and me certainly adds up to more than two,” Buffett said of his relationship with Munger. “CEOs get into trouble by surrounding themselves with sycophants. It’s beneficial to have a partner who will say, ‘You’re not thinking straight.’” For Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger is that partner. According to Michael Eisner in Working Together, it was Munger who persuaded Buffett to switch to a strategy of buy and hold, buying stocks in strong, well-run companies, then holding them for the long term.

Now that both men are in their 80s, their relationship has a well-worn pattern. According to many who know them, Charlie Munger plays the alpha role in every relationship in his life—with his family, in the law firm he founded, on the boards of companies he directs.

But not with Buffett. “That’s one of the beauties of the partnership,” Munger told Eisner. “I am in so many activities where I am the dominant personality. Yet [with Warren] I am particularly willing to play a secondary role. Warren’s a more able man in doing what we’re doing, so it’s the appropriate response. It’s not letting ego or jealously or your own personality take over. Intelligence takes over.” He later adds: “It’s a very peculiar thing for two people this old to be doing something this long. But Warren likes doing it. And I like doing it. It’s much more fun, two than one.”

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