Published: March 29, 2022
WELLINGTON, FLA. — Edward Crosby “Ned” Johnson III, passed away on Wednesday, March 23, at his Wellington home at the age of 91. The news was announced by his daughter, Abigail Johnson, the current chairman and chief executive officer of Fidelity Investments, via LinkedIn. He was described by her as loving “his family, his coworkers, work, the stock market, art and antiquities, tennis, skiing, sailing, history and a good debate. He could be counted on to have the contrarian view on just about anything. He will be missed by many.”
No cause of death was given.
Born June 29, 1930, in Boston, he grew up in Milton; his mother, Elsie, was a homemaker and his father, Edward C. Johnson II, was the founder in 1949 of the Fidelity Investments, which Ned would eventually take over.
Johnson attended Milton Academy prep school and Tabor Academy, ultimately graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College in 1954. He joined Fidelity Investments as a research analyst in 1957, after a brief stint in the US Army. In 1960, Johnson became the portfolio manager for the Fidelity Trend Fund and ran the Fidelity Magellan Fund from 1963 to 1977. From 1972 to 1977, he was president and served as chairman and chief executive officer from 1977 until his retirement in 2016. He oversaw the company’s transformation from a small, regional mutual fund company into one of the world’s largest and most diversified financial services firms. Through his vision of making investment products and services accessible and affordable to average Americans, he helped spur the explosive growth of personal investing over the past four decades.
At the time of his passing, Forbes estimated his net wealth to be $10.1 billion, earning him the ranking as the 67th richest person in the United States.
The Johnson family had been long-time discrete philanthropists in the Boston art world; the Edward C. Johnson Fund, a $334 million charitable fund established in 1964, contributes to institutions in the Boston area and beyond with an emphasis on museums historical societies, medical institutions and some youth programs. It also supports the visual arts, historic preservation, higher education, elementary and secondary schools and environmental organizations.
According to an August 22, 2015, article in the Boston Globe, Johnson “quietly built one of the most valuable art collections in New England,” as well as acquired works for museums in the Boston area. He purchased Benjamin West’s “Devout Men Taking the Body of Saint Stephen” from an English church for $2.85 million and gave it to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to honor departing director Malcolm Rogers. One of his best known acquisitions is the $16.8 million historic Yin Yu Tang Chinese house that had been dismantled in China and rebuilt at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass.
Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo executive director and chief executive officer of the Peabody Essex Museum said, “Ned Johnson was a Medici man. His far-ranging love and support of art, culture and history had inestimable impact, including at the Peabody Essex Museum. We are tremendously grateful for his belief in our museum as an agent for change. His generosity enhanced many areas of our collection, and he played such an important role in moving and re-erecting Yin Yu Tang, a Qing dynasty Chinese merchant house, at the museum. His commitment to cultural exchange was inspiring.”
Johnson loaned his art for public view through his Brookfield, Mass.-based Brookfield Arts Foundation, which had assets of $262 million in 2013. In addition to fine art, Johnson’s collection had an emphasis in Asian works of art and American furniture and decorative arts.
Johnson and his wife, Elizabeth B. “Lillie” Johnson, were trustees of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Winterthur Museum, located outside Wilmington, Del. The couple also lived in Boston.
Johnson is survived by his wife, daughters Abigail and Elizabeth, and son, Edward Johnson IV, as well as seven grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are private. A memorial service will be announced at a later date.
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