Businessman invested in his faith

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management
September 21, 2003

If you only knew what you read in the newspaper, you would probably think the world is full of thugs. If you only read the business section, you would think the world is full of rich thugs.

Not today. Today, I tell a good story.

John Marks Templeton is one of the most successful investors of our generation. (Well, not my generation, since Templeton is 89 years old.) Templeton started his flagship fund, the Templeton Growth Fund, in 1954. By 1999, an initial $100,000 investment in the fund was worth more than $55 million. He sold his company to the Franklin Group in 1992, helping create one of the largest and most successful fund families in the world.

But the real story of John Templeton has nothing to do with his mutual fund company. Paul Harvey would love this story.

The Templeton Foundation now gives more than $40 million annually to fund research into the link between spirituality, forgiveness and gratitude. In 1973, he awarded the first Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Later recipients included Billy Graham, author Alexander Solzhenitsyn and theoretical physicist Paul Davies, one of several scientists to receive the award.

In 1987, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his philanthropy.

Not bad for a country boy from Winchester, Tennessee.

Templeton was a child of the Depression, worked his way through undergraduate school at Yale, where he was first in his class and received a Rhodes Scholarship.

Templeton is the author of more than a dozen books, in addition to the other works he has funded or supported. As a teenager, he thought his future was a Christian missionary. Today, his works are lauded by theologians of every discipline. He funds annual "Laws of Life" essay writing contests around the world, challenging middle and high school students to think about the people and experiences that have helped shaped their values.

Contrary to many provocative headlines, money as a commodity isn't evil, nor necessarily are the people who posses it in abundance. If you have any interest in Templeton's works or writings, visit the Templeton Foundation website at I highly recommend the reading materials suggested there.

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While on the subject of recommended readings and other local authors, we have a unique opportunity tomorrow night in Knoxville to hear from Monica Langley, a Wall Street Journal reporter and author of "Tearing Down the Walls,"an in-depth look at the life of Sandy Weill, CEO of Citigroup. Langley, a Knoxville native, interviewed more than 500 Weill associates to document the story of a tough Jewish kid from Brooklyn who scratched his way to the top of the financial world, reinventing Wall Street in the process. It is a fantastic read and is one of the best business books of 2003. She will be at the Bijou Theatre tomorrow night at 8:00 discussing the book. The evening is sponsored by Friends of the Knox County Public Library. It's a great book and a great cause.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

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