John C. Van Eck, Investor in Gold, Non-U.S. Stocks, Dies at 98

John C. van Eck Jr., who offered Americans early avenues to invest in non-U.S. stocks and in gold, has died. He was 98.

He died on July 1 at his home in Palm Beach, Florida, his company, New York-based Van Eck Global, said yesterday in a statement.

As Van Eck Associates Corp., van Eck opened an international stock mutual fund in 1955 and a gold equity fund in 1968, according to the company’s website. Today, it manages more than $35 billion for more than 400 institutional clients including pension funds, endowments, foundations, hospitals and private banks.

Its mutual funds, which include the Global Hard Assets Fund and the CM Commodity Index Fund, are “designed for investors seeking innovative choices for portfolio diversification,” the firm says on its website. In 2006 the company created the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF, one of more than 50 exchange-traded funds it offers.

John Carel van Eck Jr. was born on Sept. 15, 1915, in San Francisco. His father, J.C. van Panthaleon Baron van Eck, was the founder of Shell Oil Co. in the U.S. and managing director of Royal Dutch Oil Co.

He received a bachelor’s degree in 1936 from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and an MBA in 1938 from Harvard Business School in Boston. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, from 1941 to 1945.

Career Path

Van Eck began his career as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley, where he worked for four years. In 1950, he joined the New York Stock Exchange firm of Steckler & Moore, where he was named a partner.

He opened his first fund, International Investors Inc., in 1955, offering American investors access to foreign growth stocks. He created what the company said was the first U.S. gold-oriented mutual fund in 1968, International Investors Gold Fund, after studying under Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises at New York University.

As gold surged in the 1970s, he was praised in the press and appeared on Merv Griffin’s television show. The New York Times, in 1980, reported that the net asset value of International Investors shares had increased to a peak of $12.06 in July 1980 from $3.55 in October 1973.

His son, Derek van Eck, who worked as chief investment officer of Van Eck Global, died in 2010.

Survivors include his wife, Sigrid van Eck, and another son, Jan van Eck, the firm’s chief executive officer.

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