Saturday, April 13, 2024

James D. Robinson III, Former Chief of American Specific, Dies at 88


James D. Robinson III, who as chief government of the American Specific Firm from 1977 to 1993 helped rework Wall Avenue right into a extra aggressive monetary market, with a large variety of companies housed beneath single roofs, died on Monday in Roslyn, N.Y., on Lengthy Island. He was 88.

The loss of life, at a hospital, was brought on by respiratory failure from recurrent pneumonia, Walter Montgomery, a spokesman for the household, wrote in an announcement.

A soft-spoken son of the Georgia gentry, Mr. Robinson adopted a well-worn path to monetary success, energy and affect: from non-public college to the Ivy League after which on to the moneyed canyons of Decrease Manhattan, with facet journeys to the corridors of Capitol Hill.

In Washington, he was amongst Wall Avenue’s most influential advocates for deregulating the monetary trade and widening its horizons. Some known as him the unofficial secretary of state for company America.

The deregulation he fought for was largely achieved with Congress’s repeal of the Despair-era Glass-Steagall laws in 1999. Because of this, business banks turned empowered to underwrite and commerce company securities and personal insurance coverage firms.

This cultural shift additionally prompted the securities trade to reply with more and more subtle and complicated computer-enabled merchandise. Amongst them had been extremely leveraged derivatives that figured importantly out there meltdown of 2008.

However whereas Mr. Robinson subsequently acknowledged that monetary deregulation “went too far,” he by no means argued for the reimposition of Glass-Steagall restrictions, which had erected a wall between funding banking and retail banks.

Mr. Robinson might have been greatest recognized to the general public for his position within the epic $25 billion battle for management of RJR Nabisco in 1988 and his dismissal by disgruntled shareholders.

Within the Nabisco episode, an Amex-owned funding agency, Shearson Lehman Hutton, was the monetary backer of an RJR Nabisco administration group that sought to regulate the corporate in a bidding conflict that was in the end received by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Firm.

“I used to be a facilitator making an attempt to deliver the edges collectively,” Mr. Robinson mentioned in an interview for this obituary in 2016.

That takeover stood as the most important enterprise deal on report for nearly a decade and was known as by some the excessive level of a brand new gilded age.

The battle was chronicled in Bryan Burrough and John Helyar’s best-selling 1989 ebook, “Barbarians on the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco.” The ebook was the premise of a 1993 HBO film wherein Mr. Robinson was performed by Fred D. Thompson, who later turned a United States senator from Tennessee.

Mr. Robinson’s profession was most outlined by his placing American Specific within the vanguard of his period’s company boundary-stretching.

“We coined the time period ‘diversified monetary providers trade,’” Mr. Robinson mentioned within the interview, in his Midtown Manhattan workplace (the place an summary portray by Frank Sinatra held on a wall).

Throughout his tenure, the American Specific journey and charge-card empire expanded to incorporate Shearson Lehman Hutton; First Knowledge Company, a funds concern; Buyers Diversified Providers, a mutual fund firm; and the Fireman’s Fund Insurance coverage Firm. American Specific additionally operated a global financial institution.

Mr. Robinson made an unsuccessful bid in 1978 for the McGraw-Hill Publishing Firm and at one level thought-about buying the Walt Disney Firm.

However the prosperity of the late Nineteen Eighties and early ’90s became what he known as a “darkish interval” because the inventory market and brokerage enterprise slumped and retailers, in what turned often known as the “Boston payment get together,” revolted nationwide over the excessive price of accepting American Specific playing cards.

The rebel compelled the corporate to chop its so-called low cost fee — about 4 p.c per transaction — to match that of its credit-card opponents, which had been charging one-third as a lot.

Disgruntled stockholders and administrators compelled Mr. Robinson to resign in 1993, at 57.

Inside a yr he had joined his son and Stuart J. Ellman to kind RRE Ventures, a New York enterprise capital agency investing in new information-technology firms.

His ouster from American Specific got here a decade after he had presided over the pressured departure of Sanford I. Weill, the Wall Avenue titan whose securities empire had been absorbed by American Specific beneath Mr. Robinson.

The brash, Brooklyn-born Mr. Weill, who began his Wall Avenue profession as a messenger, and Mr. Robinson, a patrician Georgian, made a cultural odd couple. When Mr. Weill’s proposal to purchase Fireman’s Fund, which he headed, was rejected by the Amex board, he determined he needed to depart.

Mr. Weill thought Mr. Robinson bureaucratic and indecisive. However within the 2016 interview, Mr. Robinson challenged a broadly held perception that Mr. Weill was the risk-taker and that he was risk-averse. Really, Mr. Robinson contended, “it was the alternative.”

James Dixon Robinson III — typically known as “Jimmy three sticks” due to his use of Roman numerals — was born on Nov. 19, 1935, in Atlanta to James Dixon Robinson Jr. and Josephine (Crawford) Robinson. The son and grandson of outstanding Georgia bankers — his father was chairman of First Nationwide Financial institution of Atlanta — he grew up with two sisters within the metropolis’s prosperous Buckhead district.

One neighbor, the celebrated golfer Bobby Jones, helped encourage Jimmy to begin enjoying the sport at 8, providing the occasional tip. His 2016 curriculum vitae listed seven golf membership memberships, together with Augusta Nationwide (based by Jones), and 9 former golf membership memberships.

After attending Woodberry Forest, a non-public college in Virginia, Mr. Robinson enrolled as a day scholar on the Georgia Institute of Expertise, the place he studied industrial administration. After graduating in 1957, he joined the Navy, which assigned him to the nuclear submarine base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii as a disbursing officer, or paymaster. Within the meantime he took New York Inventory Trade correspondence programs. That very same yr he married Bettye Bradley, with whom he had two kids.

After his discharge in 1959, Mr. Robinson enrolled on the Harvard Enterprise College and earned an M.B.A. in 1961. He started his enterprise profession at Morgan Warranty Belief Firm and after 5 years was named assistant to the chief government, Thomas S. Gates Jr.

In 1968, Mr. Robinson turned a accomplice at White Weld & Firm, the place he developed an curiosity in enterprise capital. He joined American Specific in 1970 as an government vice chairman, recruited by Eugene R. Black Sr., an Atlanta native, Amex director and former head of the World Financial institution. Mr. Robinson turned president in 1975 and chairman and chief government in 1977.

He was additionally chairman and chief government of Shearson Lehman Brothers, American Specific’s brokerage subsidiary.

He resigned in early 1993 after a boardroom battle over his persevering with within the job. Main shareholders sought his ouster. The Occasions reported that he had left behind an organization with “crumbling morale,” erratic earnings and losses, and a declining inventory worth. Analysts, buyers, some board members and even his predecessor, Howard L. Clark Sr., had turned in opposition to him.

His marriage to Ms. Bradley led to 1983 after she had an incapacitating mind aneurysm, he mentioned, and requested for a divorce.

In 1984, he married Linda Gosden, a high-profile public relations government who later suggested him throughout the RJR Nabisco battle. She is the daughter of Freeman F. Gosden, co-creator and a voice of the radio program “Amos ‘n’ Andy.” As he turned energetic in philanthropies and fund-raising for Republican candidates, Mr. Robinson and his spouse turned outstanding members of a glittering New York social scene, residing on the famously unique handle 778 Park Avenue.

He’s survived by his spouse; his two kids from his first marriage, James IV and Emily Prepare dinner; two kids from his second marriage, Nicholas and Olivia Robinson; his sister, Frances Huber; and 6 grandchildren. Mr. Robinson lived on Park Avenue in Manhattan.

At 80, when requested when he deliberate to retire, Mr. Robinson mentioned, “Three years after I’m useless.” He added that if his desires for technological progress had been realized, “I could possibly ship on that.”

Robert D. Hershey Jr., a reporter who for a few years lined Wall Avenue finance and economics for The Occasions, died in January. Alex Traub contributed reporting.

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