Robert W. Norton, who spent 29 years in equity-sales marketing for Lehman Management Co. and its successor firms, Ark Asset Management Co. and Smith Graham & Co. Investment Advisors, died in a motorcycle accident on Dec. 31. He was 61.
Norton was thrown from his 2006 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic when it collided with a 2009 Mini Cooper that had turned into his lane of travel on Congress Avenue in Boca Raton, Florida, according to a report by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The accident is under police investigation. Norton lived in Delray Beach, Florida, and Beach Haven, New Jersey.
Owning and riding made-in-America treasures such as Harleys, Camaros and Corvettes were a lifelong passion, according to his stepdaughter, Lauren Gray.
“He was meticulous in his attention to detail, constantly cleaning the cars and keeping them spotless,” she said in an interview.
Gray said he had a similar approach to his work, which often involved representing the interests of union pensions, among other institutional investors.
Norton joined Lehman Management, the investment division of Shearson Lehman/American Express Inc., in 1984. At Ark, which grew out of the Shearson unit, he rose to managing director and head of marketing during a 25-year career.
Since 2009, Norton was executive vice president and director of equity sales and marketing for Houston-based Smith Graham, working in New York City and Florida.
Smith Graham, a black-owned firm founded in 1990, calls itself “one of the nation’s largest minority-owned institutional investment managers,” overseeing about $5 billion in fixed-income and equity assets for clients such as endowments, foundations and Taft-Hartley pension plans.
Smith Graham bought about $3 billion in bond and stock portfolios from Ark in 2009, when Ark was on its way out of business, having been accused of fraud by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The SEC found that a portfolio manager at Ark had engaged in fraud from 2000 to 2003 by “cherry-picking” the most successful investments to benefit the firm’s proprietary accounts over those of its clients. The SEC didn’t name the manager, saying only that he was deceased by 2009, when Ark paid $19.8 million to settle the SEC action, ceased operations and consented to an involuntary bankruptcy.
Rather than retire, Norton led the group of Ark executives who joined Smith Graham and opened its New York office. He stayed on because he was determined not to let his colleagues suffer for Ark’s failure, his wife, Karen Norton, said in an interview.
“He did not take this job on for any reason for his own personal work,” she said. “He did it for his friends.”
Robert William Norton was born on Aug. 20, 1952, in Hackensack, New Jersey, and was raised in Bogota, New Jersey.
He was educated in his home state, earning a bachelor’s degree in business from Montclair State University in 1974 and an MBA in marketing from Seton Hall University in South Orange in 1977, according to his profile page on LinkedIn.com.
He began his career as a national sales manager at Glit Inc. of Port Chester, New York, a maker of non-woven abrasive fibers. He also worked as a consultant to pension plans in the funds-evaluation division of Oaks, Pennsylvania-based SEI Investments Co., according to Smith Graham’s website.
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