Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has amassed a fortune worth more than $80 billion.
He and his Berkshire business partner, Charlie Munger, have invested in everything from Coca-Cola to Heinz ketchup to IBM computers to Dairy Queen and Duracell, not to mention insurance companies, media companies, railroads and real estate.
But it hasn’t all been accumulation for Buffett. He has pledged to give away 99 percent of his fortune to charity.
He was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on Aug. 30, 1930, the second of three children of Leila and Howard Buffett. His paternal grandparents had a grocery business. His father was in the investment business and served on the Omaha school board before being elected to Congress in 1942 as a Republican.
At age 11, Buffett made his first stock purchase — three shares of Cities Service preferred at $38 per share. After the stock plunged and then rose to $40, he quickly sold his holdings, only to later see it surge. That taught him a big lesson — it’s not a good idea to try to guess when to buy a stock and when to unload it.
As a teenager, Buffett delivered newspapers in Washington, earning enough to invest in a Nebraska farm.
Buffett enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School at age 17, and after transferring, he graduated two years later from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, with a bachelor’s in business administration.
He went on to Columbia University for graduate school, where he was mentored by value-investing guru Benjamin Graham. Aside from his parents, Buffett considered Graham his greatest teacher.
“The Intelligent Investor,” Graham’s 1949 book, “changed my life,” Buffett told shareholders in 2013. “(It) gave me a philosophy, a bedrock philosophy, on investing that made sense.”
Buffett and Susan “Susie” Thompson were married in 1952 and had three children, Susan, Howard and Peter. The couple purchased a home in Omaha where they raised their family and where Buffett lives to this day.
Like young Warren, Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger worked at Buffett’s grandfather’s grocery store in Omaha. But the two future, joined-at-the-hip, partners didn’t meet until years later, in 1959, when an investor client of the then-29-year-old Buffett introduced them.
Age 35 at the time, Munger was a California-based lawyer who had come back to his native Omaha to close his late father’s legal practice. They hit it off and stayed in contact despite living half a continent away from each other.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist. Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with 130 IQYou don’t need to be a rocket scientist. Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with 130 IQ
In 1962, Buffett started investing in Berkshire Hathaway, a troubled textile manufacturing company in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In what he would later call his “dumbest” stock purchase ever, he took control of Berkshire in 1965 and “fought” the failing textile business for 20 years before finally giving up.
At the same time, however, he started to use Berkshire as a holding company for the many businesses and stocks he purchased over the following decades.
Working together informally for many years, Munger helped modify Buffett’s investment strategy, tweaking Graham’s philosophy of buying bargain-priced securities and selling them when their prices rose. Munger guided Buffett toward buying excellent companies at a fair price and holding onto them. They both cite the 1972 purchase of See’s Candies as a turning point.
Munger formally joined Berkshire as vice chairman in 1978.
In 1977, Susie Buffett moved to San Francisco to pursue a musical career. They remained married, however, and stayed in daily contact, often spending holidays together.
She also introduced him to Astrid Menks, who worked at an Omaha café where Susie performed. Menks moved in with Buffett in 1978 with his wife’s approval. The three sent out Christmas cards signed “Warren, Susie and Astrid,” according to a biographer.
In 2004, shortly before she died with Buffett at her side, Susie told an interviewer that Menks “takes great care of him, and he appreciates it and I appreciate it. She’s a wonderful person.”
Two years later, Menks and Buffett married on his 76th birthday, when she was 60.
In 2010, Buffett and Bill Gates founded The Giving Pledge to encourage wealthy people donate half their net worth to charity. Buffett has promised to pledge 99 percent of his fortune.
Buffett announced in 2015 that upon his death, his son Howard will become the unpaid nonexecutive chairman of Berkshire’s board.
With typical Buffettian good humor, he discussed the Berkshire succession in his chairman’s letter a decade ago. “I’ve reluctantly discarded the notion of my continuing to manage the portfolio after my death — abandoning my hope to give new meaning to the term ‘thinking outside the box.’”