John C. Bogle, who founded the Vanguard Group of Investment Companies and built it into a mutual fund company with $4.9 trillion in assets under its management, died last week. He was 89.
I interviewed him several times for the Gazette and, having been neighbors in Lake Placid, New York, where he spent summers, I got to know him quite well. Now that he is gone, several readers of my column where Bogle was featured have asked what kind of a person he was.
For starters, Edward C. Johnson III, the chairman of Fidelity Investments, with assets under its management worth $2.1 trillion, has a net worth of $7.4 billion, while Bogle, as the chairman of Vanguard, who built the company into a $4.9 trillion giant, is worth an estimated $80 million.
The reason for this discrepancy is that Bogle, since the founding of Vanguard, has preached that it is a folly to pay high management fees in expectation that actively managed mutual funds would outperform a well-run index fund over a long period.
In an interview with the Gazette, Bogle explained the core problem is that money managers of financial institutions, such as mutual funds, pension funds, and endowment funds, are now owners of corporations. Three-quarters of all stocks are owned by financial institutions. Half century ago, individuals owned 92 percent of all the stocks.
“The institutional money managers are in the driver’s seat. They are running money for themselves,” he said. “They are not in it for doing public service. Their idea is marketing, and they have forgotten what stewardship means.”
When I first interviewed Bogle, he insisted on coming to our home in Lake Placid; he didn’t want to inconvenience me. There were six stone stairs to climb toward the entrance of our house. I noticed, he stopped midway.
“Oh,” he said, “I have a transplanted heart. I want to give him a little rest.”
We had tea and my wife served some home-made, European-style deserts. Bogle tasted them and said, “I like them very much, but can have only a little. We have guests, and had to take them out for dinner at the Lake Placid Lodge. It is a very nice place, but very expensive. I hate to pay so much money for a dinner.”
Than he added, “I would like to take some of the desert home, if I may,”
Bogle regularly gave half of his salary to charities, mostly in the field of education.
He also was a best-selling author, whose seven published books have sold more than 750,000 copies. In 2004, Time magazine named him one of the world’s 100 most powerful and influential people.
Once, I was on the phone with him in Lake Placid when former President Bill Clinton called him. He put me on hold. Their conversation ranged from discussing Bogle’s latest book, “Enough,” to evaluating Clinton’s philanthropic endeavors.
Considering Williamsburg is a favored retirement place, I asked Bogle about his recommendations to senior citizens, as far as investments is concerned.
“Take into consideration your age when investing,” he said. “Your bond holding should equal your age. I am following my own advice. I am now 80 years old, and I am 80 percent in bonds. Buying and holding stocks and bonds in asset allocation that is appropriate for your age is the key to financial security.”
Bogle, must have followed my column online in the Virginia Gazette, and their reprint in the Lake Placid News. I have received comments from him periodically via email. Copies of it are deposited at the College of William and Mary’s Swem Library, Special Collection.
Shatz is a Williamsburg resident. He is the author of “Reports from a Distant Place, “the compilation of his elected columns. Te book is available at Bruton Parish Shop and Amazon.com.