John Bogle, champion of the small investor – obituary

John Bogle, champion of the small investor – obituary

John Clifton Bogle and his twin brother David were born at Montclair, New Jersey, on May 8 1929; it was John’s mother Josephine who first called him Jack. The boys’ grandfather William Yates Bogle Sr had been a wealthy industrialist and their parents lived a life of 1920s glamour until the Great Crash wiped out the family fortune. The marriage ended in divorce, and teenage Jack took on menial jobs – including pinsetter in a bowling alley – to help make ends meet. He was educated at Manaquan High School before winning a scholarship to the prestigious Blair Academy and going on to Princeton.

His thesis “The Economic Role of the Investment Company” earned him a first job in 1951 with Wellington Management, an early player in mutual funds, where he rose to be president but was fired by his partners in 1974. Moving on, he named his new venture Vanguard after Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of the Nile, and in 1976 he defied Wall Street doubters to launch what became his own flagship, the hugely successful Vanguard 500 Index Fund.

Born with a heart defect and having suffered his first cardiac arrest at 31, Bogle received a heart transplant in 1996, the year in which he stepped down as chief executive of Vanguard. He remained chairman until 1999 but – after he fell out with his successor – the board insisted he should retire at 70.

Bogle’s writings included Common Sense on Mutual Funds (1999) and The Clash of the Cultures: Investment vs Speculation (2012). Famously frugal, he flew economy class and drove a Volvo estate car. Had Vanguard been run on less altruistic lines, he might have been a billionaire; as it was, his fortune was estimated at $80 million and he regularly gave half his earnings to good causes, including Blair Academy and Princeton. His one regret, he said in 2012, was that “I don’t have more to give away”.

He married Eve Sherrerd in 1956. She survives him with their four daughters and two sons.

John Bogle, born May 8 1929, died January 16 2019   

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