Damn Right!: Behind the Scenes with Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger by Janet Lowe

Damn Right!: Behind the Scenes with Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger by Janet Lowe

Author:Janet Lowe
Language: eng
Format: mobi
Published: 0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00

The new owners knew that long term, only one newspaper could survive in Buffalo, and that their new property would either perish or stand alone. The Buffalo Evening News plainly required a Sunday edition, hazards be damned. Immediately after Blue Chip bought the newspaper, Buffett and Munger dropped the "Evening" from the newspaper's name and started to publish on Sunday. At first the paper was given away to current subscribers and for racks and news stands, the price was only 30 cents a copy. The Courier-Express and other newspapers in western New York charged 50 cents for their Sunday paper.

The special introductory offers to subscribers and advertisers prompted the Courier to sue the News, claiming that it was violating the Sherman Anti-trust Act. On November 9, 1977, a U.S. District judge agreed that it might be the case and granted injunctive relief that stopped short of spiking the new Sunday paper.

"They bought a lawsuit when they bought that paper," said Al Marshall, "But I never did believe they could lose."

Munger knew a good buy when he saw it, and his keen sense of what legal points could be lost or won served especially well when he and Buffett acquired the Buffalo Evening News. They knew full well that launching a Sunday newspaper would not be easy and in fact, might instigate an old fashioned newspaper war.

Despite the best efforts of Munger and lawyers he recruited to help, the injunction remained in place for two years. A Los Angeles friend of Munger and Marshall, Ernest Zack, was hired to help with the legal battle in Buffalo, which was so difficult and trying that Zack became exhausted. When Zack got so weary or frustrated that he complained, Munger admonished him, "Oh, it's good for you."

During the drawn out legal and business siege, people began to notice that Munger, 52, was having difficulty with his vision. "You would work with Charlie, go to his office and talk to him about whatever the situation was, Charlie was very good at reading documents," said Bob Denham. "A lot of people don't read them well, but it became difficult for him. He would struggle through, and as reading oriented as Charlie is, he must have been very concerned."

Even so, said Denham, "He was pretty stoic. I think he found it quite frustrating. He didn't take it out on other people."

Finally Munger had to admit he was not able to read paperwork the way he once did, and warned his colleagues not to count on him to discover errors the way he used to. He told Denham that the responsibility for carefully reviewing documents was now his.

At a relatively young age, Munger learned that he was developing rapid and severe cataracts. While the eye damage could have been from over-exposure to the bright California sunshine without the benefit of sunglasses, Charlie suspects that the more likely cause was using a sunlamp when he was a very young boy. For some reason, Munger said, he became enamored with


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