John Templeton began his career in investment in the 1930s after returning from his studies at Oxford University. In 1939 he launched his career by investing in stocks that may have seemed doomed to fail. This investing endeavor, however, began his career of investing according to maximum pessimism.
In a 1999 Money article, William Green recounts Templeton’s 1939 strategy:
Templeton rarely thinks like the rest of us. And that has been one of his greatest strengths. In 1939, he called his broker with a characteristically eccentric order. He wanted to invest $100 in each of 104 U.S. stocks, all trading at less than $1 a share; 37 were in bankruptcy, but he bought them anyway. Hitler had just invaded France. Templeton, then only 27, thought a world war would electify America’s shattered economy, saving even the feeblest companies. He was so sure of himself that he borrowed $10,000 ($117,000 in today’s dollars) to make the investment. “Five years later, when I liquidated those holdings, I had a profit on 100 out of 104 of them, he recalls. “I made roughly five times my money.”