Robert H.B. Baldwin, Transformer of Morgan Stanley, Dies at 95

Excerpts: “Robert H.B. Baldwin, Transformer of Morgan Stanley, Dies at 95”

  • Robert H.B. Baldwin, a Wall Street maverick who presided over the transformation of Morgan Stanley from a prestigious but staid old investment bank into a modern, competitive financial services corporation in the 1970s and early ’80s, died on Sunday at a nursing home in Skillman, N.J., near Princeton. He was 95.
  • At the start of Mr. Baldwin’s tenure, Morgan Stanley’s partners and clients wore old-school neckties, lunched at the same clubs and relied on sure things: underwriting bonds, genteel integrity, assured profits.
  • But as Morgan Stanley’s gentlemanly mystique gave way to new regulations and cutthroat competition, Mr. Baldwin liked to remind them that he had worked his way through Princeton, and that his grandfather had been a railway conductor.
  • In short, that he was not really one of them.
  • To compete for lucrative mergers and acquisitions, long shunned by Morgan Stanley’s etiquette, Mr. Baldwin named dozens of new executives whose expertise was in equities and hostile takeovers, not social relationships. The firm also began taking start-ups as clients, handled initial public offerings of stock and moved into wealth management for private clients.
  • “Bob Baldwin probably saved the firm and destroyed its soul,” Ron Chernow wrote in “The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance” (1990). “This new Morgan Stanley was a monument to his force and clear vision, a brilliant adaptation to altered circumstances. Yet he badly politicized a firm long unified by a special esprit de corps.
  • When he stepped down as chairman at the end of 1983, he joined a board that informally advised Morgan Stanley on policy matters and business ventures. From 1989 to 1992, he was chairman of The Lodestar Group, a New York merchant bank.
  • “To the last, Baldwin remained hypercompetitive and bent on having his way,” Mr. Chernow wrote in his history of the House of Morgan. “Yet for all his flaws, the tough, tactless Baldwin had emerged as the most important person in modern Morgan Stanley history, giving the firm the market skills to compete in a world no longer based on old-school ties.”

Source: New York Times