John C. Bogle: A look back at the life of Vanguard's founder

January 16, 2019

 
John C. Bogle

John C. Bogle
1929-2019

Vanguard regrets to announce the passing of our founder John Clifton Bogle, who died January 16, 2019, at his home in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He was 89.

Mr. Bogle had near-legendary status in the American investment community, largely because of two towering achievements:

  • He introduced the first index mutual fund for individual investors and, in the face of skeptics, stood behind the concept until it gained widespread acceptance.
  • He drove down costs across the mutual fund industry by ceaselessly campaigning in the interests of investors. Vanguard, the company he founded to embody his philosophy, is now one of the largest investment management firms in the world.

"Jack Bogle made an impact on not only the entire investment industry, but more importantly, on the lives of countless individuals saving for their futures or their children's futures," said Vanguard CEO Tim Buckley. "He was a tremendously intelligent, driven, and talented visionary whose ideas completely changed the way we invest. We are honored to continue his legacy of giving every investor 'a fair shake.'"

"The Vanguard Experiment"
Under Mr. Bogle's tutelage, Vanguard began operations on May 1, 1975. He called the new venture "The Vanguard Experiment," where mutual funds would be operated at cost and independently. Vanguard thus represented a radical change from the traditional mutual fund structure, in which an external management company manages a fund for profit.

"Our challenge at the time," Mr. Bogle recalled a decade later, "was to build … a new and better way of running a mutual fund complex. The Vanguard Experiment was designed to prove that mutual funds could operate independently, and do so in a manner that would directly benefit their shareholders."

An aficionado of naval history, Mr. Bogle named the company after Admiral Horatio Nelson's flagship at the Battle of the Nile in 1798; he thought the name "Vanguard" resonated with the themes of leadership and progress. The nautical theme can still be seen in Vanguard's logo and communications to shareholders.

"Father of indexing"
In 1976, Vanguard introduced the first index mutual fund for individual investors. Ridiculed by others in the industry as "un-American" and "a sure path to mediocrity," the fund, First Index Investment Trust, collected a mere $11 million during its initial underwriting. Now known as Vanguard 500 Index Fund, it has grown to be one of the industry's largest, with more than $400 billion in assets. Today, index funds account for more than 70% of Vanguard's $5.1 trillion in assets under management; they are offered by many other fund companies as well and they make up most exchange-traded funds (ETFs). For his pioneering of the index concept for individual investors, Mr. Bogle is often called the "father of indexing."

Standing up for the individual investor
Mr. Bogle and Vanguard again broke from industry tradition in 1977, when Vanguard ceased to market its funds through brokers and instead offered them directly to investors. The company eliminated sales charges and became a pure no-load mutual fund complex—a move that would save shareholders hundreds of millions of dollars in sales commissions.

A champion of the individual investor, Mr. Bogle is widely credited with helping to bring increased disclosure about mutual fund costs and performance to the public. His commitment to safeguarding investors' interests often prompted him to speak out against practices that were common among his peers in other mutual fund organizations.

"We are more than a mere industry," he insisted in a 1987 speech before the National Investment Company Services Association. "We must hold ourselves to higher standards, standards of trust and fiduciary duty. Change we must—in our communications, our pricing structure, our product, and our promotional techniques."

Early career
The New Jersey native began his career in 1951 after graduating magna cum laude in economics from Princeton University. His senior thesis on mutual funds had caught the eye of fellow Princeton alumnus Walter L. Morgan, who had founded Wellington Fund, the nation's oldest balanced fund, in 1929, and was one of the deans of the mutual fund industry. Mr. Morgan hired the ambitious 22-year-old for his Philadelphia-based investment management firm, Wellington Management Company.

Mr. Bogle worked his way up through the ranks, and, in 1967, he was named president. Mr. Bogle became the driving force behind Wellington's growth into a mutual fund family after he persuaded Mr. Morgan to start an equity fund that would complement Wellington™ Fund. Windsor™ Fund debuted in 1958.

In 1967, Wellington Management Company merged with the Boston investment firm Thorndike, Doran, Paine & Lewis (TDPL). Seven years later, a management dispute with the principals of TDPL led Mr. Bogle to form Vanguard in September 1974 to handle the administrative functions of Wellington's funds, while TDPL/Wellington Management would retain the investment management and distribution duties.

Beyond Vanguard
Health problems caused Mr. Bogle to step down as Vanguard's chief executive officer in 1996. The same year, he underwent a heart transplant. A self-described "battler by nature," Mr. Bogle came through the surgery with flying colors. He returned to work as senior chairman until 1999, when he turned 70, the maximum age for a Vanguard board member. Mr. Bogle never actually retired; he became president of the Bogle Financial Markets Research Center to continue his work on behalf of investors. He also continued to write and speak about the industry.

Awards and accomplishments
In 2004, Time magazine named Mr. Bogle one of "the world's 100 most powerful and influential people" and Institutional Investor magazine presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2010, Forbes magazine described him as the person who "has done more good for investors than any other financier of the past century." Fortune magazine designated him one of the investment industry's four "Giants of the 20th Century" in 1999. In January 2012, some of the nation's most respected financial leaders celebrated his career at the John C. Bogle Legacy Forum.

Mr. Bogle served on several investment industry boards: chairman of the board of governors of the Investment Company Institute (1969-1970) and chairman of the NASD's (now FINRA) Investment Companies Committee (1972-1974). In 1997, he was appointed by then-SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt to serve on the Independence Standards Board.

Mr. Bogle was sought after in the corporate community and served as a director for several corporations. He received honorary doctorate degrees from 14 universities, including his alma mater, Princeton.

Civic work
An avid booster of Philadelphia and the surrounding area, Mr. Bogle was active in civic affairs. "I loved Philadelphia, my adopted city that had been so good to me. I established my roots there, finding even more unimaginable diamonds," he wrote in one of his many books.

His civic work extended to organizations involved in education, leadership, and public affairs. He served as the first chairman of the board of trustees and chairman emeritus for the National Constitution Center. Former President Bill Clinton was also on the board and later wrote the foreword to the paperback edition of Mr. Bogle's book Enough. True Measures of Money, Business, and Life.

Sportsman and family man
Mr. Bogle was born May 8, 1929, in Montclair, New Jersey. He worked his way through Blair Academy and Princeton University as a waiter and also managed Princeton's athletic ticket office.

A tall, athletic man who sported a crew cut for most of his life, Mr. Bogle played squash, tennis, and golf, and also enjoyed sailing. He was often described as a "fierce competitor" on the court and course, a demeanor he also maintained on the job. Reading was among his pleasures, as was The New York Times crossword puzzle, which he often completed in less than 20 minutes.

He married Eve Sherrerd in 1956. The couple had six children—daughters Barbara Bogle Renninger, Jean Bogle, Nancy Bogle St. John, and Sandra Bogle Marucci, and sons John C. Bogle Jr. and Andrew Armstrong Bogle. They had 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Books by John C. Bogle

  • Bogle on Mutual Funds: New Perspectives for the Intelligent Investor (1993)
  • Common Sense on Mutual Funds: New Imperatives for the Intelligent Investor (1999)
  • John Bogle on Investing: The First 50 Years (2000)
  • Character Counts: The Creation and Building of The Vanguard Group (2002)
  • Battle for the Soul of Capitalism (2005)
  • The Little Book of Common Sense Investing (2007)
  • Enough. True Measures of Money, Business, and Life (2008)
  • Common Sense on Mutual Funds: Fully Updated 10th Anniversary Edition (2009)
  • Don't Count on It! Reflections on Investment Illusions, Capitalism, "Mutual" Funds, Indexing, Entrepreneurship, Idealism, and Heroes (2011)
  • The Clash of the Cultures: Investment vs. Speculation (2012)
  • The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: 10th Anniversary Edition (2017)
  • Stay the Course: The Story of Vanguard and the Index Revolution (2018).
 

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