In this chapter we look at John Templeton’s long career as the manager of mutual funds and attempt to answer a fundamental question: How good was he as an investor? During his lifetime he received numerous accolades. Forbes magazine, for example, described him as “one of the handful of true investment greats in a field of crowded mediocrity and bloated reputations.” Another financial magazine went further, describing him as “the greatest stock picker of the century.” In Money Masters, John Train’s popular book about the giants of the late twentieth century investment business, it is the track record of the Templeton Growth Fund which, he concludes, “proved that John Templeton is one of the great investors.”1 Ken Fisher, CEO of Fisher Investments, says: “To say Sir John is legendary is an injustice to the word legendary.”
Such accolades slip easily into print, but how well justified are they? To answer that question, we focus on the performance of the Templeton Growth Fund, which was launched in 1954 and still exists today. Although he had previously created other mutual funds, and was later to launch others with similar objectives, the Templeton Growth Fund (TGF) is the one that was responsible, after flying under the radar for many years, both for establishing his reputation as an outstanding investor and for laying the foundations of his substantial personal wealth. This in turn made possible the great majority of his many charitable and philanthropic ...