Albert H. Gordon dies at 107; energetic salesman became a power on Wall Street
May 05, 2009 | 12:00 AM
Albert H. Gordon, a Wall Street leader who sidestepped the 1929 market crash and helped rescue stock brokers Kidder, Peabody & Co. in the Depression, died Friday. He was 107.
The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported that Gordon died at his Manhattan home.
Gordon was an energetic salesman and active investor for more than eight decades, outlasting Kidder and even ticker tape on Wall Street. Over the years, he kept attuned to market trends and new ideas.
Gordon was "a famous business-getter," said John Whitehead, a former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. "Work hard and never give up -- those were very valuable lessons I learned from trying to compete with him."
Whitehead glimpsed Gordon's competitiveness in the 1950s when they first met on a flight from Boston. What was stuffed in his seatmate's bag, Whitehead asked. "My running clothes," Gordon replied, inviting his younger colleague to jog with him to Manhattan from New York's Idlewild Airport (now JFK).
A nonsmoker who paid people to give up cigarettes, Gordon credited vigorous exercise for his health and long life. In his 80s, he ran in two London marathons, and the Albert H. Gordon Track and Tennis Center at Harvard University is named for him.
Albert Hamilton Gordon was born July 21, 1901, in North Scituate, Mass., and grew up in the Boston suburb of Brookline. He graduated in 1923 with a bachelor's degree in economics from Harvard College, where he ran track, and from Harvard Business School in 1925.
"The business school was just work, work, work," he once told a Harvard interviewer. "I found that I needed nine hours of sleep to do well there, but I slept much better after working out."
After college, Gordon said his father, a successful leather merchant, told him to leave Boston for New York: "He said to me, 'Albert, you're going to New York -- that's where the pot boils fastest.' "
Later, as a bond salesman at Goldman Sachs in the late 1920s, Gordon sensed the pot was about to boil over and managed to avoid the market's collapse. With a former Harvard classmate, he helped bail out Kidder and then moved the firm from Boston to New York in 1931. He became Kidder's senior partner, chief executive and major shareholder, turning the firm into a leader in underwriting.
Gordon expanded across the U.S. and overseas, taking airplanes at a time most rivals still preferred trains. "People wouldn't fly," he said. "So there was virtually no competition."
On stepping down as chief executive, he helped engineer Kidder's sale to General Electric Co. in 1986 but stayed until GE agreed in 1994 to sell the firm to PaineWebber Group Inc., now part of Zurich-based UBS AG.
At the age of 105, Gordon could be found four days a week at the offices of Deltec Asset Management, run by his son John.
"Despite the fact that he's an old man, he buys things not for a quick trade," Arthur Byrnes, John Gordon's business partner at Deltec, told Bloomberg News in 2006. "Al is a long-term investor, if you can believe that someone who's 105 years old can be a long-term investor."
In addition to John, Gordon is survived by two other sons, Albert and Daniel; two daughters, Mary and Sarah; 12 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.