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Investing pioneer dies in Bahamas

John Templeton, an investor and mutual-fund pioneer who dedicated much of his fortune to promoting religion and reconciling it with science, has died. He was 95.

Templeton died on July 8 from pneumonia at Doctors Hospital in Nassau, Bahamas, said his spokesperson Donald Lehr.

Templeton created the $1,4-million Templeton Prize — billed as the world’s richest annual prize — to honour advancement in knowledge of spiritual matters. Winners have included Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

Templeton wanted the monetary value to surpass that of the Nobel Prize to show that advances in spiritual fields were just as important, Lehr said in a statement. Next year’s prize is expected to be almost $2-million, he said.

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 later moved to Nassau and became a naturalised British citizen.

Templeton launched his Wall Street career in 1937 and was considered a pioneer in foreign investment, choosing companies and nations that were foundering or at points of what he called ”maximum pessimism”, Lehr said.

In 1939, he borrowed money to buy 100 shares each in 104 companies selling at $1 per share or less, including 34 companies that were in bankruptcy, Lehr said. Only four turned out to be worthless, and Templeton turned large profits on the others, he said in a statement.

In 1956, Templeton helped established a technology fund whose capital skyrocketed in the late 1950s after fund-management companies were allowed to go public.

He also established Templeton Growth Fund, which he sold in 1992 to the Franklin Group for $440-million. A $10 000 investment when the fund was created in 1954 would have grown to $2-million by the time it was sold if dividends were reinvested.

Templeton was influenced by the Unity School of Christianity, which takes a non-literal view of heaven and hell, and he often started his mutual fund’s annual meetings with a prayer, Lehr said. The philanthropist also was a member of the Presbyterian Church and a board member of the Princeton Theological Seminary.

In 1987, he established the John Templeton Foundation to fund projects that could reconcile religion and science. The Pennsylvania-based non-profit has an estimated endowment of $1,5-billion and awards about $70-million in annual grants.

Its mission is to serve as a catalyst to answer the ”Big Questions”, Lehr said. Grants have been awarded to studies ranging from evolutionary biology and cosmology to love and forgiveness.

Templeton was knighted in 1987 for his philanthropic accomplishments.

He is survived by two sons, a stepdaughter, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. — Sapa-AP

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