John M. Templeton, an investor and mutual fund pioneer who gave away hundreds of millions of dollars to foster understanding of what he called "spiritual realities," died Tuesday of pneumonia in Nassau, the Bahamas, where he had lived for decades. He was 95.
Templeton created the Templeton Prize to honor advancement in knowledge of spiritual matters. Winners have included Mother Teresa and Billy Graham.
Templeton wanted the award's monetary value to surpass that of the Nobel Prize to show that advances in spiritual fields were just as important, said his spokesman, Donald Lehr. Next year's prize is expected to be worth almost $2 million.
Templeton was born in Tennessee, graduated from Yale University and became a Rhodes scholar, earning a master's degree in law at Oxford University.
He launched his Wall Street career in 1937 and was considered a pioneer in foreign investment. In 1939, the 26-year-old investor borrowed $10,000 and bought 100 shares each in 104 companies that were selling at $1 a share or less. A few years later, he made large profits on 100 of the companies; four turned out to be worthless.
He embarked on mutual funds in 1954. The flagship Templeton Growth Fund reported a 14.5 percent average annual return from 1954 to 1992.
He sold the Templeton family of funds, with $13 billion in assets, in 1992, and focused on his philanthropy.
NEW YORK TIMES, AP