Sir John Templeton

Who Was Sir John Templeton?

Sir John Templeton was a legendary investor and mutual fund manager who founded the Templeton Growth Fund. He was an early innovator in global value investing, and his family of funds held more than $13 billion in assets when he sold the firm in 1992. Following this sale, he spent the rest of his life focusing on philanthropic pursuits.

Key Takeaways

  • Sir John Templeton was one of the most successful investors of the 20th century.
  • He was known as an early innovator in both international and contrarian investing.
  • Templeton founded the legendary Templeton Growth Fund, which he sold to Franklin Resources in 1992.
Sir John Templteon

Alison Czinkota / Investopedia

Sir John Templeton's Investment Philosophy

Sir John Templeton is widely considered to be one of the greatest investors of the 20th century. He is perhaps best known as an early proponent of seeking out growth opportunities beyond the United States. He traveled the world after attending Yale and Oxford Universities and came away from this travel convinced that overseas markets and stocks offered just as much opportunity as U.S. markets. Templeton preferred nations with fewer regulatory obstacles and low inflation. His large investments in Japanese equities in the late 1960s and early 1970s reflected this philosophy.

Templeton’s other great quality as an investor was the contrarian tendency that helped him identify value stocks regardless of overall trends in a market. Instead of looking for markets or sectors whose outlooks were considered rosy, he sought out those which had been abandoned or overlooked by investors. Templeton saw such a market or an individually troubled business as an opportunity for growth. He also looked for popularly overvalued assets and took investment positions to take advantage of their eventual fall. This contrarian approach is best demonstrated by his response to the massive growth in internet stocks in the late 1990s. He famously sold several high-flying internet stocks short just as they were emerging from the initial IPO stage and made many millions of dollars when the internet bubble burst.

The Life of Sir John Templeton

Sir John Templeton was born in Tennessee in 1912. In 1934, he graduated from Yale University and then earned a law degree as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He began his investing career in 1937 and made his first big contrarian bet in 1939 by buying shares in any U.S. stock trading below one dollar per share. He purchased these equities just as Hitler’s German army was moving across Europe and western pessimism was predominant. That portfolio grew by more than 400% over the next five years.

Templeton opened what would become his family of mutual funds in 1954 when he launched the Templeton Growth Fund. The mutual fund industry grew with his funds, and he steadily offered a wide range of specialized funds. He sold the company in 1994 and devoted his time to widespread philanthropic efforts. The Templeton Foundation, which he founded in 1987, underwrote projects radiating from his interest in spirituality across denominational lines. The foundation is best known for awarding the annual Templeton Prize for advancing progress in religion. The winner of the 2018 prize was King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Templeton renounced his U.S. citizenship in 1964 in order to avoid income taxes. He moved to the Bahamas and spent most of the remainder of his life there. He died in 2008.