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SCALING HIMALAYA

The only person besides Warren Buffett who Charlie Munger trusts with his money

AP Photo/Nati Harnik
There’s someone else?
Corinne Purtill
By Corinne Purtill

Reporter

Charlie Munger has built a long career and an estimated $1.7 billion net worth through his investing, most famously as Warren Buffett’s right-hand man at Berkshire Hathaway. He practically snorted when an audience member asked in May at Berkshire’s annual shareholder meeting if he would ever consider hiring an independent wealth manager to look after his fortune.

Indeed, it would be near impossible to find one whose picks outperformed Berkshire Hathaway’s over the last half-century, or whose investing principles Munger regards higher than his own.

But at Thursday’s annual meeting of the Daily Journal Corporation, a Los Angeles publishing and technology company that Munger chairs, he shared that there is one other person besides his Berkshire partner he entrusts with his personal wealth.

“I’m 95 years old. I’ve given Munger money to some outsider to run once in 95 years,” Munger said. “That’s Li Lu.”

Li is the founder and chairman of Himalaya Capital, a China-focused investment fund headquartered in Seattle. Munger and others have called Li the Chinese version of Warren Buffett. Both are investors in the Ben Graham mold of value investing, and both are wildly famous in China for their ability to generate enormous amounts of wealth.

Munger began investing with Li in the mid-2000s. In 2010 Li wrote the forward and assisted with the translation of Poor Charlie’s Almanack, a collection of Munger’s speeches and writings. At the Daily Journal meeting, Munger explained why this investor has appealed to him in a way no others have in nearly a century.

“He’s partly a Chinese Warren Buffett. That really helps,” he said. “Partly he’s fishing in China. Not in this over-searched, over-populated, highly competitive American market.”

In a 2018 joint interview with a Chinese money magazine, Li was asked what he most admires about Munger. Li reflected that in the 15 years he had known Munger, the Berkshire executive had experienced profound setbacks: the death of his wife of 54 years, an eye condition that nearly blinded him.

“Yet throughout all these blows, I’ve never seen him being pessimistic or desperate. He’s never complained about those terrible blows either,” Li said, according to a translation on the website GuruFocus. “His attitude towards them is to take them as graceful and competent as he can. He’s objective and rational in everything. There is a Chinese saying that goes, ‘One should neither be pleased by external gains, nor be saddened by personal losses.’ Charlie is one of those people who can achieve such a state of mind.”

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