A Boston MF Scion Dies At 92
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Thursday, April 04, 2019

A Boston MF Scion Dies At 92

A fundster scion died last week at the age of 92.

George Putnam
George Putnam, former chairman of the Investment Company Institute (ICI) and of Putnam Investments [profile] and of its mutual funds, passed away on March 25, the New York Times and the Boston Globe report. His namesake father (don't call them "Jr." and "Sr.") founded the Boston-based fund firm in 1937, his mother was a renowned poodle breeder, and his great-great-great grandfather wrote the "prudent man rule" underlying fiduciary duty.

The younger George Putnam was born on August 30, 1926 in Manchester, Massachusetts. He joined the Army Air Forces in 1944, then earned biochemistry and MBA degrees from Harvard. He did postgraduate work with margarine and shortening, but he was drawn back in to the family business two years after finishing his business degree.

"To please my father, whose health was failing rapidly, I took my brand new MBA to the Putnam Funds in 1951 — and have been there ever since," George Putnam the younger wrote in 1974. His father died in 1960.

Over the years, he stressed the importance of collaboration, not of his own power. "If you have it, you don't flaunt it," he reportedly said in a 1975 interview, in 1979 he wrote that "real 'power' lies in the friendship, respect, and trust of people who can help provide success in a venture." The Putnam scion spent five decades at the company, serving as CEO and chairman and finally retiring in 2001, becoming chairman emeritus.

"It's a young person's business. Investment management requires a lot of youth and energy," he told the Globe in 2001. "There is a role for old poops like myself when the markets turn ... A little gray hair comforts the shareholders."

His son, publisher and hedge funders George Putnam III, remains a Putnam fund trustee.

Over the years, George Putnam the younger served on Harvard's board of overseers, helped create and led the Harvard Management Company, and held numerous board positions with the likes of American Public Radio, the Boston Company, Boston Safe Deposit & Trust, the Boston Museum of Science, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, Bradford College, Brockwood School, the College of the Atlantic, Colonial Williamsburg, Combustion Engineering, Computer Controls, Freeport-McMoran, Grafinkle Brooks Brothers, General Mills, Gorton's of Gloucester, Hitchner Manufacturing, Houghton Mifflin, Mallinckrodt Chemical, the Manchester Public Library, Marsh & McLennan (a onetime owner of Putnam Investments before Great-West bought the fund firm), Massachusetts General Hospital, the Massachusetts Historical Society, Massachusetts Horticultural Society, the McLean Hospital, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the NASD, the National Market Advisory Board, the Nature Conservancy in Maine, the New England Aquarium, New England Historical Geneaological Scoeity, Northeastern University, the Peabody Essex Museum, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Center, SCA Services, Shore Country Day School, Spray Engineering, St. Marks School, the Trustees of Reservations, Wellesley College, and Vincent Memorial Hospital.

He was also an avid model train display builder "up until just before his death", according to his son.

"He was a man of many interests and he attacked them all with great passion," George Putnam III tells the Globe. "He loved working with his hands, doing carpentry or doing yardwork. He loved growing orchids."

Bob Reynolds, current president and CEO of Putnam, recently sent his team a note on the "passing of a legend."

"Mr. Putnam leaves a tremendous legacy that represents the very best of Putnam Investments," Reynolds wrote. "In addition to his role as a trailblazer in the fund industry and in helping to build Putnam Investments into the firm that it is today, Mr. Putnam symbolized the highest levels of decency, integrity, and humility. At his core, he was a gentleman and the embodiment of what is good about our industry, company, and community."

George Putnam the younger is survived by his wife, two daughters and a son, ten grandchildren, and three greatchildren. Services will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family is directing donations to MSPCA-Angell, the Peabody Essex Museum, or WGBH.

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