James E. Stowers Jr., founder of American Century Investments, who turned $100,000 in seed money in 1958 into the company that today has $141 billion under management, has died. He was 90.
He died Monday at his home in Kansas City, Mo., following a period of declining health, the company said in a statement.
American Century, named “Best Large Mutual Fund Company” at the 2009 Lipper Fund Awards, dedicates 40% of its profits to support research into genetic-based diseases including cancer, diabetes and dementia. The majority shareholder of the Kansas City-based company is the nonprofit Stowers Institute for Medical Research, which Mr. Stowers created the center with his wife, Virginia, after both were diagnosed with cancer.
Once among the richest Americans, he fell out of the Forbes 400 ranking in 2001 after donating $1.2 billion to endow the medical institute. Forbes reported in 2012 that Mr. Stowers had donated a total of $2 billion, or 20 times his then-net worth of $100 million.
“For Jim, creating new knowledge was the most powerful contribution he could offer mankind,” Richard W. Brown, chairman of American Century and the Stowers Institute, said in the company statement. “Throughout his whole life, whether as businessman or philanthropist, he thought about making things better for other people.”
Mr. Stowers founded the firm, originally known as Twentieth Century, in 1958 in a one-bedroom apartment in Kansas City, according to the company.
Twentieth Century Mutual Funds became American Century in 1997 after a merger with Benham Group.
The company said Mr. Stowers once wrote, “From the start of our company, we had a dream. That dream was to try to offer people only the best products and services — second to none.”