The late Charlie Munger grew Daily Journal’s stock portfolio from nothing to $300 million within 15 years. The newspaper publisher just filed its final portfolio update from the legendary investor’s time in charge, and it underlines Munger’s exceptional patience, discipline, and conviction.
Munger, best known as Warren Buffett’s right-hand man and Berkshire Hathaway’s vice chairman, died aged 99 on November 28. He chaired Daily Journal’s board for about 45 years from 1977 to 2022. When markets crashed during the 2008 financial crisis, he made the call to plow some of the company’s money into stocks and started managing its investments.
Daily Journal’s first portfolio filing dates back to the fourth quarter of 2013, likely because that’s when the value of its holdings breached the $100 million reporting threshold. The publisher and legal-software provider disclosed 2.3 million shares of Bank of America, almost 1.6 million shares of Wells Fargo, 140,000 shares of US Bancorp, and 64,600 shares of South Korean steelmaker Posco.
Remarkably, Daily Journal held the exact same amount of Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and US Bancorp shares a decade later, on December 30 last year. While it slashed its Posco position to 9,745 shares in the fourth quarter of 2014, it didn’t touch it again until the fourth quarter of 2022, when it exited the holding.
Munger made only one other big change to Daily Journal’s portfolio. He bet on Alibaba at the start of 2021, quadrupled his wager by the end of the year, then halved it the next quarter after souring on the Chinese e-commerce titan and deciding he’d made a mistake.
It’s worth noting that Munger’s hands-off approach wasn’t a winner across the board. The value of Daily Journal’s Wells Fargo and US Bancorp positions rose by less than 10% in a decade, while the S&P 500 surged by over 150% in the same timeframe. The company’s Bank of America stake did better, rising by almost 120% in that period.
Munger’s record appears to have been saved by an early bet on Chinese EV maker BYD. The wager likely made up the lion’s share of Daily Journal’s $138 million in unrealized gains on September 30, and allowed it to realize a 15-fold return on a $3.3 million wager in late 2021.
Even so, Daily Journal’s filings underscore Munger’s commitment to making concentrated bets, buying for the long term and only at a compelling price, rarely selling, and resisting the urge to fiddle or panic. He barely touched its handful of US holdings for at least a decade, adding just one name, exiting another, and leaving three of its positions fully intact.
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