Charlie Munger, legendary philanthropist and business partner to Warren Buffett, died Nov. 28 at the age of 99. Inman founder Brad Inman recalls a consequential meal with the venerable investor.

Charlie Munger, legendary investor and business partner to Warren Buffett, died last week. Here is my personal story about Charlie.

In the early 1990s, Munger treated me to lunch at the bougie downtown Los Angeles Jonathan Club to “discuss our future.” He brought along his colleague; I believe his name was Steve.

My tiny business, Inman News — which meant mostly me — among other things was writing and editing Munger’s California Real Estate Journal. Along with being a gifted stock-picker and mega-investor, he owned legal and real estate magazines in Southern California.

After wrapping up lunch, Charlie said at meetings like ours he and Steve sometimes tell their guests, “We’ll have to check with our CPA before we proceed.”

Charlie Munger does not need to check with his CPA to make a business decision.

CPA was their code for a “crazy, psychotic asshole.”

I avoided that fate, further fantasizing that Charlie might want to buy my little business, which then was a growing consumer news and event company. I loved my work, so, looking back, I am not sure why selling the company meant so much to me. 

Many entrepreneurs believe milestones like raising money, selling your company or appearing on CNBC are why they build businesses.

With the perspective of time, I realize those weren’t my motivations, but they do bring personal validation. And a successful exit offers a break from entrepreneurial exhaustion.

Charlie liked my enthusiasm and technology focus and told me that he was interested in rolling my company into his.

He offered me a full-time gig, along with bringing my burgeoning enterprise with me. Meaning he would not pay me much of anything for the business.

He had sized up my tiny company pretty well. At that stage, it was not worth much, despite my confidence that I was building something meaningful.

This story made the outcome worthwhile, and I was immensely flattered by the overture. 

Lunch at the Jonathan Club, are you kidding? That was not the world that I came from.

I chose not to work full-time for Charlie, but continued to edit his magazine. My passion for doing my own thing prevailed for the next 30 years.

Ys in the road often create stress, but they shouldn’t: it means you have choices.

Email Brad Inman

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