Charlie and I went to his dining room, where, with my recorder on, we began talking immediately about See's Candies, the brand he convinced Buffett to buy in 1972 for $25 million. The first thing immediately apparent about Munger is that in business and beyond, he knows everyone and remembers everything. At each turn he is able to recall specific and obscure anecdotes about buyouts and bankruptcies that relate in some way to the subject at hand. He talked about when Hershey's (HSY) first tried to expand into Canada. He waxed about Kodak ("People think the whole thing failed, but they forget that Kodak didn't really go broke, because Eastman Chemical did survive as a prosperous company and they spun that off") and about P&G ("Procter & Gamble, they just make a fortune on some of the body products. Some of these brands, I mean, if you can make something that actually improves the skin, wow. That's the last thing people will give up"). He may not possess the obvious, gleeful sense of humor of Buffett, but Munger has the ability to make you laugh even as he's discussing something completely dry and practical.Continue Reading
As the same man who had led me into the house served up breakfast (scrambled eggs, home fries, and delicious bacon), Munger talked about the strengths of See's over the years. In his estimation, it has made all the right decisions, both before Berkshire got there and since. "There are a lot of boxed chocolate companies; it's an old human desire," he said. "People like those little pieces." But See's worked hard, he said, to prevent cannibalizing its own stores, and has always had a cautious nature that helped it succeed in the long run. "And of course," he added, "We haven't basically touched it at all." He pointed out the significance of See's as a gift item. "Who wants to give a gift that announces 'I'm a cheap ... ' You know."