Edward Johnson III, CEO of Fidelity who revolutionized investing, dies at 91
By Nicole Goodkind, CNN Business
Edward “Ned” Johnson III, who oversaw the transformation of Fidelity Investments into a financial services powerhouse and pioneered the sale of mutual funds directly to individual investors, died Wednesday. He was 91 years old.
Johnson died in Florida surrounded by his family, according to Fidelity.
“He was a visionary, innovator and philanthropist who had an immense curiosity about the world around him and lived life to the fullest every day,” the Johnson family said in a statement. “Until the end, he never lost his enthusiasm, his sense of humor or his energetic spirit.”
Johnson served as president and CEO of Fidelity Investments, the company his father started, for more than 40 years, and transformed the Boston-area mutual fund manager. into the second largest investment management company in the United States and one of the most successful diversified financial services companies in the world.
When Johnson became chairman in 1972, Fidelity had $3.9 billion in assets under management. When he retired as president in 2016, it had soared to $2.1 trillion with an additional $5.7 trillion in assets under administration.
The firm, now run by his daughter Abigail Johnson, had $11.1 trillion in assets under administration, when it was filed in February.
During his tenure as head of Fidelity, Johnson helped revolutionize the way Americans save and plan for retirement by making Wall Street more accessible to all investors.
In 1974, he broke the mold by selling mutual funds directly to individual investors rather than through traditional brokers. After Congress created the 401(k) in 1978, it introduced a system for managing retirement funds, which is now a fundamental part of the retirement plans of millions of Americans. As the stock market entered a period of steady growth in the 1980s, Fidelity was the first company to provide discount brokerage services to individuals. In 1995, it became the first fund company to create a website.
“He was playing three-dimensional chess while others were playing checkers,” said Sanjiv Mirchandani, the former president of Fidelity Investments National Financial Services, in an internal memorial video created by Fidelity. “He thought of many steps ahead and thought of all the variables, but he also recognized that in a world of uncertainty and complexity where you need true north, you need a compass. “
Johnson was born at the start of the Great Depression in Boston and graduated from Harvard in 1954. He joined his father’s firm in 1957 as a research analyst and became president and CEO after the retirement of his father in 1976. During his tenure at Fidelity, he amassed a personal fortune of $13.6 billion, the majority of which came from his 12% stake in the company, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Johnson was also known for his interest in the arts and philanthropy. He was a collector of ancient Japanese and Chinese art and a major donor to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In 1991, Johnson created Fidelity Charitable, the first national donor-advised fund.
“He loved his family, colleagues, work, scholarship, art and antiques, tennis, skiing, sailing, history and a good debate,” wrote Abigail Johnson, who took over as director. of the company in 2014, in a LinkedIn post. “He could be counted on to have a contrary point of view on just about anything.”
Johnson is survived by his wife Elizabeth (Lillie), his children Abigail, Elizabeth and Edward, and his 7 grandchildren.
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