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Damn Right: Behind the Scenes with Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger Paperback – 9 May 2003
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She′s Bullish on the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous
Money talks – in an astonishing number of languages. Janet Lowe′ s books on business and finance have been translated into 17 tongues, including Thai, Hebrew, Slovenian and three different kinds of Chinese.
President of the San Diego Press Club, former financial editor of the San Diego Tribune and the author of 16 books, Lowe′ s writing focuses on the leaders of specific industries. Her latest work, "Damn Right! Behind the Scenes With Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger," gives further evidence of Lowe′ s expertise on money–related success.
The very rich, she observes, seem to have one particular thing in common.
"The people that I have written about all earned their own wealth. They are not inheritors. They did not fall by it accidentally," she said. "It came about as the result of having a particular talent that they recognized very early in their lives, and they concentrated on it."
She says that Warren Buffett was fascinated by investing even as a child, that Oprah Winfrey began working in radio and television while still in high school, that Ted Turner, although a "wild child," was always someone who saw big ideas and took big risks.
Lowe challenges the stereotype of the wealthy as dishonest and ruthless. Money talks – but it talks straight.
"People usually do not rise to this level unless they′ re very smart, good communicators, and ethical," she explained. "You may not agree with the philosophy of a Warren Buffett or a Jack Welch (the head of General Electric) and with what they do or how they feel, but they are honest and true to themselves and they follow an ethical course. They′ll tell you that if you′ re not a straight shooter and an honest dealer, people will see that and not work with you."
The San Diego Union–Tribune Online (By Sarah Sabalos LaSpaluto, October 29, 2000
"Janet Lowe′s extensive access to Charlie Munger, his family, friends and business partners has ensured a perceptive look at the man and his business methods." (Lloyd′s List, 9th December 2000)
"This is a well–written, fascinating, cautionary tale which examines the seductive nature of power, and people′s willingness to believe in these latter–day icons." (International Wealth Management, October 2000)
"Janet Lowe′s extensive access to Charlie Munger, his family, friends and business partners has ensured a perceptive look at the man and his business methods." (Lloyd′s List, 9th December 2000) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From the Author
Question: If superinvestor Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger really are partners, why do we hear so much about Buffett and so little about Munger?
Answer: Buffett of course is the chairman of the company, and as such is the company's spokesman and public symbol. But it's also a matter of style. Buffett is a natural showman and handles publicity well. Munger prefers to have a quieter life and work behind the scenes.
Q: Some people say that Munger actually is the power behind the Buffett throne. Is this true?
A: Munger and Buffett are two very smart men. They both were doing well financially before they met. When they joined forces, they both did much, much better. Munger often says that "lollapalooza" results are obtained when you put two or more big ideas (or big thinkers) together.
Q: What did Munger bring to the party that Buffett needed?
A: As an experienced corporate lawyer, he brought a deep understanding of the best ways to create wealth, making the most of the legal system and taking best advantage of tax laws. But Munger also was a real estate developer and had operated several industrial companies, and he knew the nuts and bolts of business. Munger hadn't studied under Benjamin Graham at Columbia University as Buffett had done. His ideas were based on experience and they drew Buffett beyond the traditions of value investing.
Q: Did Charlie Munger become a billionaire because of Warren Buffett?
A: Munger was a millionaire when he met Buffett, so he was well on his way. But there is no doubt, by working with Buffett, his financial fortunes were improved.
Q: What can the everyday investor learn from Charlie Munger?
A: Many things of course, but basically, how to structure your personal and financial life in a way that builds wealth. He lived below his means, reinvested profits, and like a poker player, folded early on bad hands but bet big on good hands.
Q: Munger and Buffett are of an older generation and they won't even buy tech stocks. Do they have anything relevant to say to today's investors?
A: Microsoft founder Bill Gates listens to them, venture capitalist Roger McNamee listens to them, as do many other high tech players. While the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio was structured on the expertise of an earlier time, the principles Buffett and Munger use are sound in any type of market or when investing in any market sector.
Q: Buffett and Munger are value investors, but that style of investing hasn't done so well recently. Is it a dead theory?
A: Buffett always warned investors that markets could be cyclical and that he would have down years. People stopped believing him when decade after decade, his performance soared. Then in the late 1990s when his prophecy came true, people had a difficult time believing that Berkshire Hathaway would recover. When the Internet frenzy cooled, value investing began to regain its luster, proving that the theory survives.
Q: Did Munger and Buffett agree to be interviewed for this book, and if so, what were the interviews like?
A: Munger and Buffett both agreed to be interviewed. Because I had interviewed Buffett before, I knew what to expect. He has a talent for being quotable. The interviews with Charlie were fascinating, but went slowly. This is because he has so much to say on so many subjects that it was difficult to stay on the point and get the specific answer I was aiming for. One thing is for sure, the interviews were never dull.
Q: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
A: So little had been written about Munger, the research was time-consuming and daunting. Once the research was completed, a massive amount of material had to be organized, facts checked, etc. This was a labor-intensive book.
Q: What was the most fun thing about writing Damn Right?
A: The interviews were enormously fun to do. Munger is surrounded by interesting and entertaining people.
Q: Why did you choose this title for the biography?
A: At one point I asked Munger a question, and he enthusiastically declared, "Damn Right!" He holds strong beliefs, and wants very much to do the right thing, so the words, I believe, describe Munger himself.
Q: What will Charlie Munger's legacy be?
A: Munger said that he wanted to be wealthy so that he could have a large family, but also so that he could be independent, follow his own ideas and live life the way he chooses. He hopes to follow the example of Benjamin Franklin - to use his wealth and independence to do good works. His legacy will be that of a self-made billionaire who also is a dedicated family man, a faithful friend and a good citizen. He may also be remembered for his passion for fishing. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
I came across this book when I started delving deeper into Berkshire Hathaway's partnership and I was already sold on buying this book anyway without looking at the few reviews I did find . Charlie rightly said that he couldn't see that many of this particular book will sell , but that he'd hoped that people learned out of the mistakes that he had made in the past .
His life story appealed to me straight away because it struck a similar cord with me regarding the hardships that Charlie had to endure during life . Although Charlie has a great lineage , he isn't your typical gold spoon fed billionaire . It is also evident that Charlie has a fair amount of intellect and more importantly a perseverance to hold on to his convictions even if no one else sees it his way . Eventually allot of investors do come around to his ideas in the end . Allot of other useful wisdom abounds in this book too and Charlie has no lack in humor either as illustrated in most chapters .
The book is generally very enjoyable to read and adds great weight to any investors book 'portfolio' .
Having read Poor Charlie's almanach I didn't know what I might gleam from this, all in all it was worth the money. The are some interesting insights into the way the market operated in Charlie's early days. Significant opportunities were to be found in real estate in the early 70s which Mr Munger was able to take advantage of in scale and proportion. What I will say is that the first half of the book was superb with some comic relief in places. The reader will appreciate the challenges he faced on a business and personal level.
Why 3 stars then?. The original premise of this book is what holds it back in my opinion. Much is said about his family and personal dealings which all though some may be able to leverage into practical information, never the less is some what obtrusive. The later part of the book is much better known from a public perspective.
As a value investor I found areas I could relate to, the section explaining how blue chip stamps was reversed into Berkshire was excellent and gave good info on how Charlie and Warren moved from being mainly owners of securitys to private business owners within the market listing of Berkshire. Along the way many people became affluent through minor holdings in their subsiderys. Caught in the wake of their success as such.
In some ways I was left optimistic and saddened after reading through. For those glorious and golden inefficient market days are many years behind us but opportunitys for honest and hardworking people with integrity are still around if not for every year it becomes harder.
As a foot note here, I would have liked to read more about his views on investing.
Robert w Johns
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