Remembering Sir John Templeton (1912-2008)

07/08/2008 4:31 pm EST


John Templeton

Founder, John Templeton Foundation (via video)

The Original Thinker—Investment Pioneer Championed Global Investing by Americans and Europeans

Died early this morning after an 18-month struggle with pneumonia, according to his office in Nassau. Knighted by Queen Elizabeth, Templeton’s legendary career began on Wall Street in 1937.

Back in 1954, the Tennessee native who was a Rhodes scholar and managed the Princeton's Theology school endowment formed his first fund, The Templeton Fund. With it he boldly went where few others would dare invest: bombed out Japan (remember "made in Japan"?) where even the largest companies' outlook was still gloomy and their products were not exactly admired for their quality—yet!When Lou Rukeyser and I would chide Sir John about his steadfast front-end loads—a substantial sales fee required by most of The Templeton funds (even during the 1980s no-load fund boom), John would tell the story of Leo Pasley, who still lived in Palm Beach and had put $100,000 into his fund, during the year it opened. This investment had already grown to $8.2 million in 1983, when Rukeyser (see A Tribute to Lou Rukeyser ) and I co-interviewed Templeton for a video. "Mr. Pasley is not the slightest bit jealous that a salesman made part of the front-end load fee for explaining the merits of this long term investment", Sir John cleverly added. John's last contribution was for The World Money Show debut in 2004.

His is a success story to behold that is particularly relevant today because of investors' shaken faith in three of Templeton's tried and true tenants: the long term buy-and-hold strategy, overweight the emerging markets, and deep value investing. "Buy at the point of maximum pessimism”, Sir John would insist. Investors who aim to outperform cannot buy the most famous companies with the best outlook. The unwavering devotion that his extraordinary career demonstrated speaks to our need for a disciplined approach—and a bit longer time horizon than today's fast money daytraders. The consummate value hunter seemed never to fade when bargains emerged from the crowd's excess pessimism or just plain panic. "Earlier this year”, Templeton told us in 1983, “an explosion at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India sent the industrial giant's stock price down dramatically, we bought on the panic low and made $120 million." This was not quite as daring and risky as spectators may have assumed since Templeton's researchers calmly confirmed that the company was adequately insured. See also Mark Hulbert’s MarketWatch piece.

Time magazine, see most recent story April 2007, reported that Sir John ranked #3 in worldwide philanthropy (behind warren Buffet and Bill Gates. The Templeton Award (for religious contributions) emphasized the importance of updating spiritual worship. Sir John was careful to point out his belief that inclusion of "all the great religions and the integration of science" was not widely embraced by some establishment theologians. We wrote a review for one of Sir John's characteristically insightful books, Looking Forward (1993, HarperCollins).

Here at InterShow, we owe our start, at least in large part, to Sir John Templeton. No one lent more credibility to the investor conferences during their most formative and perilous years. Paul Kangas and I still chat about watching Sir John attend an entire morning of sessions at the 6th annual conference in Ft. Lauderdale, before speaking after lunch to a 1984 crowd of about 500 investors. When I first met John Templeton, we were standing in a cafeteria line at Hillsdale College. It was the summer of 1975. The dominant school for free market economic thinking was hosting The Mount Pelleron Society which was profiled in the award winning Frontline series, "Commanding Heights" and remains the most elite group of Austrian and Chicago School economists including several other MoneyShow speakers and friends who have also recently passed: William F. Buckley and Milton Freedman. Murray Rothbard and Leonard E. Reed were presenting and FreedomFest founder Mark Skousen is a more recent member of The Mount Peleron Society who, like Buckley spoke at our first event, The "International Investors' Forum" in September of 1978.

Many of the conclusions that Kim and I have reached in life stem from Sir John's teachings and the example of his career. Indeed, seldom do so many owe so much to one man and his extraordinary odyssey. We will miss him in this world. Fortunately, John convinced us all that his pioneering spirit will live on...

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