While answering questions at Los Angeles-based news outlet Daily Journal Corp’s annual meeting, Charlie Munger, Vice Chairman of investment giant Berkshire Hathaway and longtime partner of fellow billionaire Warren Buffett, took a thinly-veiled shot at Elon Musk, founder and CEO of automobile company Tesla Inc.
Munger, who serves as the chairman of Journal Daily Corp, has gained worldwide acclaim as a successful investor and is also seen as a “sage” who gives some of the best investment advice.
At the annual meeting, Munger was asked by a company shareholder about his proverb, where he once famously said he would rather “hire a person with an IQ of 130 but who thinks it’s 120, as opposed to someone who thinks he has a 170 IQ, when he actually just has an IQ of 150.”
Before the shareholder could finish the question, Munger interrupted him by saying “you must be thinking about Elon Musk,” to which the entire audience laughed.
“Of course I want the guy who understands his limitations instead of the guy who doesn’t. On the other hand, I’ve learned something terribly important in life… never underestimate the man who overestimates himself. These weird guys who overestimate themselves occasionally knock it right out of the park.”
From his response, two things are clear: Charlie Munger does think that Elon Musk is a smart man (and at this point, who wouldn’t?). However, if Tesla’s CEO decided to quit the electric automobile giant today and apply for a position at Berkshire, Munger would probably pass on the chance to accept him.
Munger and Musk: Two Success Stories, Just Worlds Apart
Munger’s comments have been consistent with his business operations. Since they started the company, he and his longtime business partner, Warren Buffett, have been known to favor more risk-averse investment opportunities.
On the flip side, Elon Musk, apart from his obvious brilliance and visionary ideas, has also struck the world as someone who could be impulsive and who sets unrealistic goals.
Still, it’s not like both men are doing so badly for themselves. The 95-year-old Munger has helped build a global business empire and a personal fortune of $1.7 billion, thanks to years of favoring stable investment choices and shrewd business techniques.
With a $22 billion net worth, Musk’s “daredevil” business lifestyle is also paying off pretty well for him. From international online payments (PayPal) to electric, driverless vehicles (Tesla) and the opportunity of space travel (SpaceX), Musk has made a career out of building businesses that provide services which many people never thought were possible. He might have an unconventional – and sometimes, dangerous – way of achieving goals, but Elon Musk is a man that’s heralding the cause of bringing humanity into the future.
“Bold and Brilliant”
This isn’t the first time the Berkshire vice chairman commented on Musk and his entrepreneurial adventures. In a May 2018 interview with Yahoo! Finance at Berkshire’s annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, Munger praised Musk, calling him “bold and brilliant.” However, he expressed some doubt as to whether all of the endeavors set out by the daring CEO would pan out.
In part, Munger said:
It (Tesla Inc.) has already created more significance than anybody had predicted. Its founder is bold and brilliant, and he swings for the fences. People like that get some remarkable results. Sometimes they get some quick failures.