Kenneth Brody, investment banker who led Export-Import Bank, dies at 79

Kenneth Brody, investment banker who led Export-Import Bank, dies at 79

Kenneth D. Brody, an investment banker who became a prominent figure in Washington as well as on Wall Street, rallying donors in the financial industry behind Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign and shaping U.S. trade policy during his first term in office as chief of the federal Export-Import Bank, died March 26 in Manhattan. He was 79.

The cause was multiple system atrophy, a degenerative neurological disorder, according to his family.

Among the Wall Street wizards bearing prep school diplomas and prestigious pedigrees, Mr. Brody was an exception. His father drove a milk truck, and after his parents separated, he was raised by his single mother in the suburbs of Washington.

He studied electrical engineering at the University of Maryland and, by his account, knew nothing about banking when he applied to Harvard Business School on the encouragement of a graduate who suggested that it might open Mr. Brody to “life’s possibilities.”

He went on to spend two decades at Goldman Sachs, the investment banking firm in New York, where he ascended the ranks to head its high-technology and real estate divisions and to guide the company as a partner and member of the management committee.

Mr. Brody also cultivated an interest in politics, first as a Republican before shifting his political allegiance in the waning years of the Reagan administration.

He became active in the Democratic Leadership Council, an organization of centrist members of the party, and in 1991 was among a cadre of bankers invited to a dinner party in New York with Clinton, who was then governor of Arkansas and seeking support for a long-shot bid for the Democratic nomination for president.

After the dinner, according to an account in The Washington Post, Mr. Brody and Clinton “retired” to the Harvard Club of New York City and talked the night away. Clinton, like Mr. Brody, had come from a humble background. Mr. Brody quickly came to see him as a person of brilliance and — as he would later persuade his Wall Streets friends — the rare politician who could have made partner at Goldman if he had chosen another path in life.

Mr. Brody left Goldman in 1991 to become a private investor and to head Clinton’s campaign fundraising in New York. He canvassed Wall Street donors in an effort that was by all measures a wild success: During the primaries and in the lead-up to the 1992 Democratic National Convention, Mr. Brody helped raise $7.6 million for Clinton, The Post reported.

The support came at a critical moment — as Clinton weathered rumors about his extramarital affair with Gennifer Flowers, a former television reporter and cabaret singer — and indicated to political observers that the “smart money” was still on him.

After taking office in 1993, Clinton named Mr. Brody president and chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, an agency that facilitates the export of U.S. goods and services by making and guaranteeing loans abroad.

Mr. Brody was credited with bringing private-sector efficiency and customer service to his slice of government bureaucracy. Early his tenure, he told the New York Times, he “went nuts” when an assistant, responding to complaints that the agency was difficult to contact by telephone, remarked that “those who need us know how to get us.”

He reduced the time and cost of loan applications and sought to boost the overseas sales of small businesses in addition to large ones. He expanded the bank’s operations in Russia, the former Soviet bloc, Latin America, Asia and especially China. In 1993, the bank financed what The Post reported to be a record $15 billion in loans and loan guarantees.

“We will go from being a follower to a leader,” Mr. Brody said. “We’re trying to do more in high-risk countries, where private lenders won’t go.”

Mr. Brody stepped down from the Export-Import Bank at the end of 1995 and returned to investment banking. He also became involved with an organization that helped underprivileged youths gain admission at private preparatory schools — training grounds that often provide entry to the world into which Mr. Brody had stumbled.

Kenneth David Brody was born in Philadelphia on June 30, 1943. His parents separated when he was young, and Mr. Brody grew up in Silver Spring, Md. His mother worked in the classified department of The Post.

Mr. Brody was a 1960 graduate of Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring and a 1964 graduate of the University of Maryland.

“When I graduated from college with an engineering degree, I knew nothing about politics,” he told a publication of Harvard Business School years later, “and less about investment banking.” He became interested in finance at the business school and joined Goldman Sachs immediately after his graduation in 1971.

Among other activities at Goldman, Mr. Brody advised the U.S. government on the privatization of Conrail and the Mexican government on the privatization of the state telephone company.

After leaving the Export-Import Bank, Mr. Brody co-founded Taconic Capital Advisors, a hedge fund with more than $8 billion under management when he retired in 2013.

His marriages to Judy Donahue, Helen Tandler and Carolyn Schwenker ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 10 years, the former Nina Soberman of Manhattan; two children from his third marriage, Carrie Brody of Manhattan and Charlie Brody of Boston; a stepdaughter, Chloe Greisman of Manhattan; a brother; and two grandchildren.

Mr. Brody nurtured many interests outside finance and politics. He once hired faculty from St. John’s College in Annapolis to tutor him and Goldman Sachs colleagues in the school’s “great books” curriculum, which included 500 classic works of literature.

In Washington, he played speed chess in public parks and owned an 18th-century home, originally located in Massachusetts and moved in parcels to the capital, that had a bullet hole from the Revolutionary War in the front door.

And when he was in his 40s, Mr. Brody took up tennis. He started playing, he said, because he had grown out of shape working every day in a desk job. Tennis, he hoped, might help him become more active with his children.

Mr. Brody created the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., a nonprofit organization that opened in 1999 with the goal of training young people in the sport — especially low-income youths — so that they might receive college athletic scholarships.

Mr. Brody spearheaded the construction of a $5.5 million, 27-court tennis center that has over the past two decades developed a national reputation for its success in producing successful tennis players.

Among its most noted athletes was Frances Tiafoe, who had lived for a period at the courts when his father, an immigrant from Sierra Leone, worked in maintenance. Tiafoe is today one of the most highly ranked tennis players in the world.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *