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01/29/2008 08:00:00

Financier Munger Gives DuBridge Lecture

PASADENA, Calif.- Charles "Charlie" Munger, lifelong friend and business partner of Warren Buffett, will be the featured guest at the 2008 DuBridge Distinguished Lecture Series at the California Institute of Technology at 8 p.m., March 11, in Beckman Auditorium, 332 S. Michigan Ave., on the Pasadena campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Munger, 84, is vice chairman of Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, the diversified investment corporation chaired by Buffett.

Munger is known for his simple, yet wise, approach to business and investment. "We have three baskets for investing: yes, no, and too tough to understand." Thus, pharmaceuticals and technology don't make the cut, but Costco Wholesale Corporation and Geico Insurance do.

Munger is also the chairman of Wesco Financial Corporation, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. Wesco began as a savings and loan association, but now controls Precision Steel Corp., CORT Furniture Leasing, Kansas Bankers Surety Company, and other ventures. Wesco Financial has an equity portfolio of over $1 billion that is concentrated in Coca-Cola, American Express, Wells Fargo, and Procter & Gamble. Munger believes that holding a concentrated number of stocks that he knows extremely well will produce superior returns in the long term.

Wesco is based in Pasadena, where Munger once lived, and Pasadena is the site of the company's annual shareholders' meeting, which is typically held on the Wednesday or Thursday after the more famous Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting. Munger's meetings are nearly as legendary in the investment community as those he cohosts with Buffett in Omaha. Such meetings are often perfunctory, but Munger interacts for hours with the Wesco shareholders, sometimes speculating about what his hero Benjamin Franklin would do in a given situation.

Buffett has often publicly stated that he regards Munger as his partner, but Munger is hardly a carbon copy of Buffett, who devotes his time almost exclusively to his business. Munger, who has not involved himself in the day-to-day operations of Berkshire for many years, is a generalist for whom investment is only one of a broad range of interests. Each man feels their differences complement rather than detract from their relationship.

After studies at the University of Michigan and Caltech and service in the U.S. Air Force as a meteorologist, Munger entered Harvard Law School without an undergraduate degree. Graduating in 1948 with a Juris Doctor magna cum laude, he worked in Los Angeles as an attorney and helped found Munger, Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles in 1962. In 1965 he gave up the practice of law to concentrate on managing investments, including controlling positions in various businesses.

Since 1965, he has been engaged in a variety of businesses, after 1975 primarily as an officer and director of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and various subsidiaries. He is also chairman of Daily Journal Corporation (publisher of California's leading newspapers for lawyers). He became a trustee of Good Samaritan Hospital in 1979 and has served as chairman since November 1987. He has been a trustee (and at one time chairman) of Harvard-Westlake School since 1969 and is founder and president of the Alfred C. Munger Foundation.

With his wife Nancy Barry Munger, he has made many donations that have helped educational institutions, particularly in improving their landscaping and buildings. Recipients have included Harvard-Westlake School in North Hollywood; Marlborough School in central Los Angeles; Polytechnic School in Pasadena, Stanford; the University of Michigan; and the Los Angeles YMCA, which will soon build a branch funded largely by the Mungers, that will operate in partnership with a Los Angeles public school.

The Mungers have also created the Munger Research Center at the Huntington Library, which has a close relationship with nearby Caltech. This Center, in turn, helped attract to the Huntington one of the world's greatest collections of works covering the history of science, the Burndy Library on the History of Science and Technology.

No tickets are necessary for the DuBridge lecture; at least 300 seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. It begins at 8 p.m., but guests are encouraged to arrive by 7:15 p.m. to be assured of a seat. The event will be in the format of a conversation with Tom Tombrello, the division chair for Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy.

The Lee A. DuBridge Distinguished Lecture series brings prominent speakers of national and international importance to the Caltech campus. The series was inaugurated in 1996 in honor of Lee A. DuBridge, president of Caltech from 1946 to 1969. DuBridge, who died in 1994, was once called America's "senior statesman of science" by Time magazine, and was considered an exemplary research-university president in an era of vast scientific, societal, and educational change. He guided the growth of the modern Caltech while maintaining an understanding and interest in national affairs that was rare among university presidents. Previous DuBridge speakers include Buffett, Walter Cronkite, John Hume, Jack Valenti, and Judy Woodruff.

For more information on the lecture, call (626) 395-4652 or, outside the greater Pasadena area, call toll free, (888) 222-5832.

Written by Jill Perry