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Friday, October 2, 2020

An Ex-CEO's 17-Month Swan Song Begins

Reported by Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

After spending his entire career at a big Beantown mutual fund firm, an ex-CEO is starting his 17-month swan song. It will end almost 18 years after he took the reins there and more than 37 years after he first joined the asset manager, which had grown to $557 billion in AUM as of August 31.

Robert J. "Rob" Manning
MFS Investment Management
Executive Chair
Yesterday Rob Manning, executive chair of MFS Investment Management, confirmed that he will retire from the firm on March 1, 2022. Manning, who will turn 57 later this month, will hand the chair job to current CEO Mike Roberge, age 54, who is also already on the Boston-based mutual fund firm's board. Word is Manning will not be moving on to another firm in the business.

First, though, Manning will step back from his executive duties on January 1, 2021, leaving MFS' management committee and becoming non-executive chair, confirms Dan Flaherty, an MFS spokesperson. On that same date, Roberge will join MFS' U.S. mutual funds' board, alongside Manning (who not retire from the funds' board until he retires from the firm in 2022). Manning will also leave the board of MFS' Luxembourg-based UCITs funds in May 2021, Flaherty notes.

Manning is retiring not only from MFS but from the industry, says Flaherty. And watch for Manning to keep one MFS role going, even after he leaves the board in 2022.

"He'll continue to be a member of the investment advisory council, available to MFS in that capacity," Flaherty tells MFWire, noting that the council includes about a half a dozen people. "We established our investment advisory council back in 2017, and Rob was a founding member ... It's current and former investors from MFS who meet on a regular basis in an advisory and mentoring capacity to both MFS' management as well as members of the investment team."

"MFS is the only company I've ever worked for, and after more than three and a half decades, I've decided to transition to the next phase of my life," Manning states, noting that the firm has "never been in a better to position to succeed" and describing it as "a truly global, highly competitive world-class investment firm."

Roberge, for his part, lauds Manning as "a genuine leader, friend and mentor to so many at MFS, myself included."

"He's set high standards for MFS and will ultimately leave the firm in an extremely strong position for continued success globally in the years to come," Roberge states.

Looking ahead, Manning points to two areas in particular for his post-MFS attention.

"I'm looking forward to spending more time with my family in additon to continuing to support and serve the University of Massachusetts system," Manning states. (Manning is an alum of UMass Lowell and chairs the board of trustees for the UMass system.)

Manning joined MFS in 1984, fresh out of college, as a research analyst in the high yield bond group. He rose through through the fixed income team, serving as PM, director of research, and chief strategist, until taking over the fixed income division in 2001. He took over as president, chief investment officer, and CEO in 2004. He added the chairman hat in 2010 while passing the CIO and president roles to Roberge. The duo began splitting the CEO job in 2015, and in 2017 Roberge became the sole CEO while Manning became executive chairman. 

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