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Top financier, art patron Roy Neuberger dies at 107

world Updated: Dec 26, 2010 13:41 IST
New York

Roy Neuberger, a legend in the investment world who gained equal renown as a modern art patron and collector, has died at the age of 107, the firm he co-founded said.

In an astonishingly long career, Neuberger as a savvy young financier avoided calamity in the 1929 Wall Street crash, then built an empire that allowed him to buy countless works of art by American artists - only to give most of them away to US museums.

In a statement on Saturday, George Walker, chief executive of Neuberger Berman investment firm, praised the company co-founder and former longtime leader as "a quiet force who inspired the respect of his competitors and the loyalty of his colleagues through his keen insights and extraordinary decision making."

"He built Neuberger Berman into one of the most respected investment management firms in the world," he said of Neuberger, who died Friday at his Manhattan home.

In "The Passionate Collector," one of two autobiographical works by Neuberger, the self-proclaimed "art advocate and activist" described how his love of art was born as an 18-year-old college dropout, working at a department store by day and taking art classes at night.

"I decided that I would never be a first-rate painter. But I discovered that I loved art and had a good eye for it," he recounted.

Neuberger was born in July 1903 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but was orphaned at age 12 and subsequently raised by an older sister in New York.

In 1925, breaking off from college after just one year of studies, Neuberger traveled to Europe, where during a four-year long sojourn, he learned about how Europe had mistreated some of its most brilliant artists, including Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cezanne "who was not given a one-man show until he was 56," Neuberger wrote.

"I wanted America to do better by its artists," he wrote. "I resolved to collect the works of living artists to encourage others to do the same" he wrote, adding that he decided that a career in finance would provide the wherewithal to achieve those ends.

Neuberger's innate business acumen allowed him to deftly sidestep the pitfalls of the Stock Market crash of 1929 that ravaged the fortunes of countless other Wall Street investors.

"Older, wiser and richer men lost millions, but I came out of the panic intact and with a greater appreciation of the vagaries of the market," Neuberger wrote in his 2003 book.

Over the years, his keen eye and impeccable taste in art allowed him to acquire modern American masterpieces by the likes of Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, among many others.