Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

c.2013 New York Times News Service

Charles B. Johnson, the mutual fund billionaire, has pledged $250 million to Yale, the largest gift in the university’s history, according to an announcement by the university’s president Monday.

Johnson, the retired chairman of the money management company Franklin Resources, and a member of the Yale class of 1954, already has his name attached to several Yale institutions that he has supported. His latest donation will go toward the construction of two new residential colleges at Yale, the president, Peter Salovey, said in an email to students, faculty, administrators and alumni.

A son of the founder of Franklin Resources, Johnson was the company’s chief executive for much of the second half of the 20th century, taking the company public in 1971. He retired as chairman in June, succeeded by his son, Gregory.

Franklin Resources, also known as Franklin Templeton Investments, manages the Franklin and Templeton mutual funds. The firm had more than $815 billion in assets under management as of June 30.

A baseball fan, Johnson is the largest shareholder of the San Francisco Giants. Forbes estimates his net worth at $5.6 billion.

His surname is a familiar one around Yale’s campus. Gifts from Johnson have supported the Johnson Field, the Johnson Center for the Study of American Diplomacy and the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy.

The $250 million donation puts Yale closer to meeting its fundraising goal for the new residential colleges, with $80 million still to be raised, Salovey said Monday. The construction of the new colleges, hindered by the economic downturn, would represent the first expansion of Yale College since 1969, when women were first admitted, Salovey said.

“Charlie’s vision of enabling access to a Yale College education to a greater number of astonishingly talented students tracks perfectly with my hopes for a more accessible and excellent Yale,” Salovey said in the email.

Among his classmates, Johnson’s financial success is well known. On the website for the class of 1954, Johnson is called “our class’ only billionaire.”

But an asterisk is included, with a note that reads: “To the best of my knowledge. If there are others in our class, let me know.”