Mutual Fund Mastermind
Against the backdrop of World War II while Hitler was marching his troops across Europe, John Templeton at the age of 27, borrowed $10,000 and used it to purchase 100 shares of all the stocks trading for less than a dollar. While 34 of these companies eventually went bankrupt, the other 70 succeeded and Templeton later sold the stocks for more than $40,000. This strategy is the reason Templeton is credited with inventing the mutual fund.
Born to a poor family in Winchester, Tennessee in 1912, Templeton earned a scholarship to Yale University and graduated at the top of his class with a degree in economics. He went on to become a Rhodes Scholar and studied in Oxford. Returning to the U.S. with a Masters degree in 1936, Templeton began working at Fenner & Beane, Merrill Lynch’s predecessor. In the midst of the Great Depression, he co-founded the investment firm Templeton, Dobbrow & Vance in 1937 and together with his co-founders gained $300 million in assets in less than 20 years.
Templeton’s claim to fame was that he was always looking for bargain investments. He sought out low-priced stock around the world and sold them for a profit. In 1962, Templeton sold his share of the firm and, over the next 25 years, created a number of successful investment funds. He renounced his U.S. citizenship in 1968 and moved to the Bahamas where he died in 2008. He is one of the few Americans to receive knighthood and was a very active philanthropist.